We all get blue. It is a common part of life, so common that we have an entire music genre dedicated to singing about “the blues.” Many of us will even face depression, which often comes with stigma, guilt, and a host of other feelings that make the problem even worse. But our God is a God of hope. He has given us so much in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. So it should come as no surprise that we can find in the Bible quite a few pictures of overcoming the blues, and even depression. Let us look at one, in 1 Samuel 1, where we see Hannah and her struggle with depression and God’s great victory over it.
In the first couple of verses, we are introduced to Hannah, who is married to Elkanah, who was also married to another woman, Peninnah. Now this is not exactly a cheery start. Elkanah has not followed God’s plan for marriage, and, as you might expect, this causes problems. In verse 5, Hannah receives a double portion for the sacrifice because she is childless, and in verse 6 we see her rival Peninnah mocks her greatly for this. Her childlessness causes great spiritual distress to Hannah, who weeps year after year. From this we can understand that Hannah is depressed, and perhaps it is even worse at this specific time of year.
Notice her husband’s response. Elkanah tries to help her. He offers himself as better than ten sons (verse 8). He tries to direct her sad heart to something that could cheer her up. He wants her to find her comfort and solace in him, her husband. But it does not work. So Hannah goes and prays before the Lord. She pours out her heart, her soul, to God. This is where we find Eli. He sees Hannah and assumes the worst. He probably had seen a lot of drunks in the tabernacle, which does not say much for the spiritual state of Israel. Yet he quickly learns his mistake, and Eli then tells Hannah in verse 17, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition.” This leads to Hannah getting up, her depression gone, and her face is no longer sad, and she returns to eating (v.18). This is all before Samuel, her son, is ever conceived (v. 20). Her sadness is lifted even before the prayer is answered.
What I would like to point out is the difference in the advice Eli gives and Elkanah gives. Elkanah, while probably meaning well, directs Hannah to earthly things. He wants her to find her happiness in him. But in Elkanah, happiness is on shaky ground. He has two wives, after all. Elkanah is downplaying the source of her pain, and he will inevitably fail her. Man is finite, and we sin against one another. Happiness has to have a more solid foundation than the slippery slope of other people. Elkanah also tried to make her happy with things; he had been giving her a double portion for years. But happiness based in things does not last, either. Things do not last. The double portion is soon consumed and has to be replaced the next year. Things might meet a momentary need, but they have no ability to make us spiritually content. The things of the earth are passing away. Eli, on the other hand, directs Hannah to the Lord. God alone is the solid rock upon which we can live and die happily. As Hannah herself will say, “There is no rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2). Eli has reminded her that God, Who is above all things and greater than all things, answers prayers. Eli has reminded her that God hears us when we cry out to Him. We see that Hannah has taken this lesson to heart when she names the child Samuel, which means “God hears.”
When we find ourselves in the blues or suffering from depression, we need to remember this lesson of Hannah, Eli, and Elkanah. First, we should not try to find happiness in earthly things. A clean house is great, but it will get dirty again. So don’t put your happiness in that. A new job or promotion is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t bring true happiness. Money comes, and money goes. Happiness is not found there, either. Being popular in school is fun, but popularity is a fleeting thing, and school eventually ends. The opinion of other people cannot serve as a source for happiness. Do not let these or any other earthly things serve as a foundation for your happiness and contentment. They will always let you down and leave you in sadness.
Second, seek the things that are above, where Christ is (Colossians 3:1). Set your mind on things above that will not perish nor fade. How can you do this? Dig into his Word. Find His promises. Read the stories of God overcoming sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Take comfort and heart in Jesus’ victory. Meditate on His Word. In the Word of God, we will find the heavenly truths revealed by our Father in order to instruct, train, rebuke, and correct us. In this way our minds will be lifted and set in a heavenly direction.
Third, PRAY! This you must do. Hannah goes to pray and pours her soul out to God. She is not holding anything back from him. She weeps and pleads and bares her soul. Do you pray like that? Sometimes we fall into traps where we pray the polite prayers that are expected of us. We watch our syntax and mind our “p’s and q’s.” There is nothing wrong with that, but if you are suffering, God wants you to be honest and pour your soul out to Him. Sometimes we fail to pour our heart out to God because we have forgotten the fundamental truth that God hears. We think it’s a lot of trouble if God is not going to help or if He already knows. God does already know, but He wants you to pray and ask! He wants to hear it from you. Fourth, remember God is working. He is working, for He is in control. You may not be able to see it, but He is. You might need to remind yourself that “His mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). But do not forget that God is in control even over your blues and depression. For it is “the LORD makes poor and makes rich. He brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s and on them He has set the world” (1 Samuel 2:7-8).
Take heart in the way Hannah, through the power of the Lord, overcame her sadness and depression. The Lord Jesus gives us blessings, including the peace of God, which will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). Set your mind on Christ and not on the world, be constant and honest in prayer, search his word, and wait upon Him. Then you, too, may be able to say with Paul, “I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).
Rev. Lee Johnson