Ever have one of those days? Or weeks? Or maybe even years? Some days, I have to say that I come to that point that reminds me of the passage in 1 Kings 19. You know the one. Jezebel has killed all God’s prophets. And she is just totally hot for Elijah’s blood. She was really mad because Elijah had just been God’s instrument for making her false god Baal, and his worshipers, look like fools on Mount Carmel (why do I always want to spell that caramel?). So after Elijah calls down holy fire on the mountain, and wipes out all of Baal’s prophets, some of Jezebel’s favorite dudes, he sends Ahab back to Jezebel.
But, then, after doing what God said. After this major triumph, and the certain knowledge that God is with him. After being a witness and instrument of God’s glorious might before His people, Elijah runs. He runs because he hears Jezebel is trying to kill him. He runs because he is afraid. He runs, as we see in the passage with him in the wilderness, because he is tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of carrying the burdens. Just tired. He lays down under a tree and just asks God to hurry up and kill him and get it over with.
I love these passages. But, I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is because I learn something new each time I go back and read it. Perhaps it is because Elijah is such a huge figure in the history of Israel, and this passage shows that even he had his moments of weariness. I won’t say despair, because sometimes when I read it, it seems like that. But other times, it doesn’t really seem so much like despair as simply a genuine desire to be done with the work he’s called to. I never get the idea that Elijah is exactly suicidal (I mean if that was his goal he could have stayed where Jezebel could get him), so I can’t really call it despair.
It might also be because of that other part. He had just witnessed the literal fire and glory of God. He had just seen God answer his cry directly. Elijah, more than most anyone in the Bible outside Christ and Moses, knew with absolute certainty that God talked to him, and he understood what God said. And even with all that certainty, when his enemies started crying for blood, he ran. And when God came to him, Elijah didn’t ask for deliverance, didn’t pray God’s holy fire down on his enemies. Instead, he pleaded like a fearful and beaten man.
First at the end of verse 4 he says, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” I often wondered what that last bit meant, until I had a refresher in the first books of the Bible. I get the sense from the words and context that it is perhaps Elijah’s admission that his faith failed him in a moment of weakness. That he is crying out both for forgiveness and release from struggling to be better than his fathers. But, perhaps that’s just me this week, or what God means for me to hear there this week anyway.
After, we have the conversation with God in the cave.
9 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, torn 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.”
No excuses per se. Just a simple admission that life had gotten a little too hard for him to handle. He’s basically just saying, Lord I’ve done all you asked. I’ve done all I can. Your people are still doing evil, and their killing all of us who do what you ask. And I’m up next.
Perhaps though, it is really God’s response that draws me back here again and again. God invites Elijah out to meet him. Sound and fury pass by in a cavalcade of overwhelming power. Then God whispers. And asks once again why Elijah is there. It’s funny, because we know God knows. We know He actually knew before He asked the first time, and He certainly knows before He asks the second. But once again, God invites Elijah to lay his burdens down. In this moment, after He has once again demonstrated His immense power and majesty, as well as His gentle care for His beloved prophet. And then He sends Elijah on to the rest of his assignment, with the assurance that God is present and there will be an end.
I’m certainly no Elijah. I have not been God’s chosen instrument to stand before 400 prophets of Baal and call fire down from heaven these past weeks. I have no queen breathing fire and seeking my head. Yet, I do have that sense of being under attack. That something is after me, and trying to keep me from God’s path. And after the last couple weeks, maybe even months, or perhaps even years, I also sympathize with Elijah’s urge to just run into the wilderness and lay down beneath a tree. Not because I have this overwhelming desire to die, but because the path is unclear, the monsters seem large, and there does not seem to be an end in sight some days.
I missed Bible Study last Wednesday because my stomach hurt for nearly 24 hours straight, and I couldn’t get out of bed. We missed church on Sunday because I stayed in the sun too long Saturday and gave myself heat exhaustion, then just to be sure we couldn’t go, Corey woke up with one eye swollen totally shut and the beginning of what has been a week of allergic reaction to something he came in contact with in his battle against the jungle (otherwise known as the back yard where a tree fell down). Thankfully that’s diminishing now. I missed my accountability meeting and my other Bible Study Tuesday because my stomach was feeling wrong again, though thankfully not cramping, and Corey’s other eye had swollen shut too. This has come on the heels of other small, but building, hindrances to the twin goals God gave me when we arrived home from Maine: visit the churches and figure out what work I am meant to be doing to earn a stable living.
Then, as today, I remember. God is the God who built the mountains and bound the seas. Christ is the Christ who walked on water, healed the sick and cast out demons. Holy Spirit is the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead and led His people through the night to safety in blazing fire. And the Father’s promise, given through Jesus, is that that same Holy Spirit resides right here in me. Whispering softly of God’s love and direction, reminding me of His majesty and might.
In spite of the set backs of this week, and the tentative nature of my tummy, yesterday, I made a determination that I was going to do something God told me to. So, I went to Bible Study, and Corey and I have gotten back to either praying or reading Scripture every night, both when we can (we actually got back to that Monday). In spite of the set backs of the week, I have begun the last couple days with the beautiful prayer journal my daughter gave me, that has space for both prayers and praises, and a Scripture for the day. I go back and read the day before, and sometimes all the way back to the beginning, just to make sure that the answered prayers are on my praise list. It’s amazing how calming it is to remember that God is indeed answering prayers, some even quickly as we reckon time. And tonight, I completed a project that made me joyful, and pointed me in the direction I’m supposed to be going for that whole earning a living thing.
I am no Elijah. But, God is most definitely God, glory and praises to His name. Hopefully, God willing, I’ll be able to get back on track for sharing those details of why we’re on this journey in the next day or two. In the meantime, are you having an Elijah in the desert kind of week, month, year? Share your burdens with God and with your brothers and sisters, so we can all help each other up the mountain.
Be blessed and be a blessing.