Dealing with Spiritual and Emotional Exhaustion

November 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Do you…

  • Ever feel tired?
  • Ever feel like there is not enough time in the day to get everything done?
  • Ever feel like giving up… in a job or relationship or situation?
  • Ever feel spiritually worn out/prayed out/stretched out?

In today’s high pressure, fast-paced world, it is difficult to have the emotional energy we need to meet the demands of life.

There’s a story in the Bible that points out how we can meet life’s demands—especially when we feel the weakest.


  • One of the most famous and dramatic of Israel’s prophets

There’s a verse in the New Testament that says, “Elijah was a man just like us” (James 5:17)

  • He wasn’t a spiritual superhero who had a special hotline to God
  • He faced pressures and struggles just like we do
  • But God taught him a very important lesson about balancing life’s demands

1 Kings 19—Elijah is Down and Out

To understand—need to understand 1 Kings 18

  • Elijah is a prophet to Israel
  • There was a king named Ahab whose wife was Jezebel
    • Jezebel was a foreigner and got Ahab to worship Baal
    • Not only that, she killed the prophets of the Lord

Elijah has a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel

  • Here’s the rules:
    • They get a sacrifice
    • Cut it up and prepare it on a wood pile to be offered
    • Then pray to their god
    • The god that answers by fire wins

All the people of Israel are gathered there

  • Elijah lets the prophets of Baal go first

450 Baal prophets—prepare sacrifice and start praying to Baal

  • Around lunchtime Elijah starts to taunt the Baal prophets
    • Why don’t you pray louder?
    • Maybe your god is asleep
    • Or in deep thought
    • Or on a trip
    • Or maybe in the bathroom
  • So Baal prophets pray louder—and cut themselves
  • Nothing but silence (v. 29)“But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”

Then it’s Elijah’s turn

  • He cuts up the sacrifice
    • Puts it on the wood
    • Pours water over it…again…and again
  • Prays on time to God
  • Fire falls from heaven and incinerates the sacrifice

People go nuts—(v. 39) “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

  • And Elijah and the people slaughtered all the prophets of Baal

Big win for God and his prophet, Elijah.

But in 1 Kings 19 we see a dramatic shift

Elijah goes from a spiritual mountaintop to the lowest, deepest valley

Here are the players in this drama—we met them in 1 Kings 18

  • King Ahab:   who the Bible describes as the worst king of Israel up to this point
  • Queen Jezebel:     a wicked idol worshipper
    • They both hate Elijah
  • Elijah
  • God

1 Kings 19

Elijah Flees to Horeb

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

Jezebel threatens Elijah’s life

How does Elijah—the great prophet of God, fresh off an incredible spiritual victory— respond?

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

What causes spiritual/emotional exhaustion?

  • We see some of the causes in Elijah’s story

1) Conflict (v 1-2)

The king and queen hate Elijah and want him dead

There will always be conflict in human relationships

  • who are you having issues with right now?

Do you like conflict?

  • Most of us retreat from it
  • It wears us out
  • We constantly think about it

2) Failure (v 1-2)

Elijah feels like a failure

  • A prophet is supposed to call people to obey the word of God
  • But what are Ahab and Jezebel—the king and queen of God’s people—doing?
  • They are disobeying God—in fact, they are trying to eliminate all of God’s prophets
  • Including Elijah

How does failure affect you?

  • Is there an area in your life right now where you feel like you are failing?
    • School
    • Work
    • Home
    • Spiritual life
    • Finances
    • Health

This can wear you out and cause spiritual/emotional exhaustion

3) Fear (v 3)—Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.

Elijah is afraid—and he has a good reason to be

What about you?

  • When you wake up in the morning, what is the first emotion that you feel?

Some days it is excitement

  • But sometimes we feel something else
    • Anxiety/fear
      • Won’t be able to meet the demands of the day
      • Won’t even be able to identify the priorities of the day

This can wear anyone out

4) Loneliness  (v 3-4)

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert.

Elijah is alone

No one is with him to encourage him

  • Remind him of the truth
  • Hug him
  • Support him

That’s why the word FELLOWSHIP is so important

  • That’s why church is important
  • Like-minded people supporting you as a spiritual family
  • Encouraging and truth-telling from the same truth source

This is where Elijah is at this point…

  • He’s in a conflict
  • He feels like a failure
  • He’s afraid
  • And he is lonely

That’s why he wants to die.

We can relate to the things that exhaust us like that

  • But God doesn’t want to just help us understand how it happens
  • He wants to bring us through our exhaustion and give us stability and hope again

And we see how that happens for Elijah and can happen for us as we continue with the story…

1 Kings 19:5-9a

Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

1) REST your body (v. 5-9a)

When Elijah is so distraught he wants to die—God doesn’t give him a pep talk or a sermon

  • Instead he gives him a snack and a nap

Sometimes the smartest thing you can do—the most SPIRITUAL THING you can do—is to go to sleep

1 Kings 19:7-10

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

2) REALIZE what you can and cannot control (v. 10,14)

In verse 10—what can Elijah control?

  • His zealousness for God—what he does, how he responds to God
  • Bringing God’s word to the people
  • Challenging the prophet of Baal

But what else does he take responsibility for?

  • The Israelites response to his message—their response to God

“In spite of everything I’ve done—all my valiant efforts…”

  • God’s covenant is reject
  • His altars of broken down
  • His prophets are killed

That’s why he feels like a failure!

  • In his eyes the response of the Israelites is all his fault

Can he change people’s hearts?

  • Who does that? God

We do this all the time—take responsibility for stuff we can’t control

  • Employees
  • Kids
  • Situations


When we take responsibility for things we can’t control, you will get frustrated

  • What do you do with that frustration?
    • Let it out—become a controlling jerk
    • Stuff it down—become angry and bitter
    • Stuff it deeper—get depressed
      • Because ultimately you—like Elijah—blame yourself

1 Kings 19:11

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

3) REFOCUS on God (v.11-12)

In verse 10—who is Elijah focusing on? (On whom is Elijah’s focus?)

  • Himself… I’ve been zealous/ I failed/I’m alone

And God says—you have to focus on me

  • I’m gonna show up

How cool is that—a whisper

  • Elijah is hurting and God speaks to him in a whisper
  • He gently begins to move him from failure to faith

This highlights one of the most incredible truths about our God

  • He is the powerful creator
  • The Almighty One
  • The sovereign over all
  • All powerful—controlling wind, earthquakes and fire
  • But he is also a gentle and intimate God
  • Close enough to communicate to us with a whisper

What does God say?

  • And he says it to Elijah twice

1 Kings 19:13

13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”


  • Question is for Elijah, not God
  • Like “Where are you?” in Gen 3

If you feel like a failure and lonely and depressed and exhausted

  • Listen for God’s whisper asking you the same question

He’s not mad

  • He wants you to know he hasn’t changed his opinion of you
  • He asks you the question to remind you of who he is
  • He doesn’t want you to choose to stay there
  • He wants to give you hope

Jesus provides the cure—he overcomes for us

1) He brings REST for our souls

Matthew 11:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

2) He CONTROLS everything

John 15:5

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

3) He is GOD WITH US

John 10:30

30 I and the Father are one.”

John 14:9

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

John 14:6

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

1 Kings 19:14

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Then the Lord gives Elijah a mission

  • He guides and directs him

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Elijah learns that he is not alone

  • God has a plan and purpose for his life

The same is true about us.

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