If you don't recognize the citation above, it's probably because you have made the same mistake everyone else does. You have read the account of the contest on Mt Carmel and simply stopped at the end of the 18th chapter of 1 Kings. You have exulted in the victory Elijah won and left it at that. Which means you missed this: it wasn't a victory after all. Yes, Elijah thought it was too, but as soon as he got home from his God-assisted sprint to Jezreel, he found out otherwise. All that had happened was the temporary pumping up of a people who lived only in the passion of the moment. The passion faded almost immediately. Jezebel was still in control and Elijah was threatened and running for his life. Nothing had changed!
What a letdown. If his flashy victory couldn't save the people, what could? And so he fell into a deep depression. "Just let me die, God," he requests, and lies down to sleep.
The point this morning is not the answer to why the big show didn't work. (See "Pep Rally Religion" for that.) The point this morning is something much more practical. Times of depression are normal. They do not mean you are weak. If ever there was a spiritually strong man of God, it was Elijah. Yet he, too, fell prey to low morale.
"Look at all I've done. I've tried and tried and I am a failure. I am all alone. No one cares. Why should I bother?" (19:4)
Tell me you haven't had those moments. Well, you are in good company. So what was the problem?
First, he was counting on the wrong thing. He made a big splashy show, thinking it would turn the people around. Yes, they may have chanted "Jehovah he is God" 17 times or more, but it didn't last past the rainstorm. Passion always diminishes. It cannot be maintained at a fever pitch. It will simply wear you out. If passion is the basis of your faith, you are in for a big fall, probably sooner rather than later.
Second, he focused only on himself. For those brief moments, a man who had spent his life serving God and reaching out to others, turned his attention inward and forgot the point of it all. "I'm a failure. I'm no better than my fathers." Paul reminded the Corinthians that he planted, and Apollos watered, but it was God who gave the increase. We aren't to worry about results. That's God's business. We just keep working.
And third, just as it always does, depression became pessimism and pessimism became cynicism, and those things steal your hope. "I'm the only one left." Nonsense. What about Obadiah and the 100 prophets that faithful man had hidden from Jezebel? It had only been a few days since he and Obadiah had spoken about it. Surely he knew of others. He had to for God to be able to speak of a symbolic 7000 who "have not bowed their knee to Baal" and not be overstating the matter.
So God asks Elijah the question in our title: "What are you doing here?" He's a hundred miles or so from Samaria, the capital of the people he is supposed to be preaching to, and in an unpopulated wilderness where he cannot serve anyone at all. So God sends him back. Get busy doing my work, He tells Elijah. And there was plenty left to do. You are most certainly NOT the only one left, God reminds him. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and trust me, just like you always did before.
Obviously we are not talking about mental illness or clinical depression. But sometimes that ordinary old down in the dumps feeling can seem just as bad. It's normal in the ups and downs of life to feel like that—once in a while. Even strong people have those days. But the cure is the same every day, whether you are in the doldrums or out of them. Concentrate on serving God and serving others. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. God doesn't. He let Elijah get some rest, then fed him, and finally, taught him the lesson of the power in the "still, small voice" of His Word rather than big splashy shows. "It isn't your power—it's mine that accomplishes things. Trust me." Then He said, "Get to work!" (19:5-18).
If you're feeling a little blue today, read 1 Kings 17-19. When you see it in someone else, it's easier to see how ridiculous it all is. Get some rest, nourish your body, and then do like Elijah and get back to work. God may even have a chariot waiting for you someday.
Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars. I am the only one left, and they are trying to take my life! But what was God’s reply to him? I have left 7,000 men for Myself who have not bowed down to Baal. In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace. (Rom 11:3-5)