Encouragement from Elijah

Where is God when I need Him the most?  Probably every believer has struggled with that question at one time or the other. Disappointments and discouragement come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes linger for a very long time.  So, when sudden or continuing frustrations cause our plans to be interrupted (or scuttled altogether), we can wrongly conclude that God has abandoned us and left us to figure out the best course of action for ourselves.

You know, believers in the 21st century aren’t the only ones to feel that way. Maybe that’s why Elijah is one of my favorite Old Testament characters. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that  his clash with King Ahab and the prophets of Baal recorded in 1 Kings 18 is one of the greatest confrontations in human history.  Even Hollywood’s best screen writers would be challenged to match the tension and drama that led up to climactic scene on the summit of Mt. Carmel where God powerfully demonstrates His superiority over all false gods by sending fire from heaven!  What an event it must have been to witness!

But, that’s not all there is to his story.  Perhaps knowing how overwhelmingly God came through in such a dramatic fashion in that event makes the next chapter a bit more curious, and reveals Elijah as more like us than we realize. Reading on in chapter 19, we discover that Queen Jezebel was furious that all her idol-worshiping priests were killed, and ordered Elijah’s murder.  But instead of standing against her with the same faith that gave him boldness only hours before, this mighty prophet was… afraid. In fact, he was so terrified that he fled the city, crossed the desert, traveled for 40 days where he retreated to a cave and collapsed into an emotional heap. Out of the depths of depression and anxiety, Elijah cried out “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”  (1 Kings 19:10)

Overwhelmed by emotion and desperation, Elijah lost his perspective.  He focused his attention on the power of an earthly ruler and forgot about the power of the One who held him.

And you know what?  Elijah’s self-pitying fears were ignored.  Instead, God called him out of his den of discouragement, spoke to him in a gentle whisper, and reminded the wavering prophet that the Lord God alone was a trustworthy refuge.  (Ps. 11:1)

What an encouragement this passage can be to those who feel abandoned by God. Maybe a sickness, a loss of relationship or a dashed dream has sent you running for shelter.  “Where is God now?” you wonder.  The Lord certainly can do the miraculous like he did on Mt Carmel, but this story reminds us that He’s also with us and at work when we can’t see or feel His presence at all. Our rapidly changing and volatile emotions lie to us and cannot be trusted to gives us an accurate indication of God’s love and concern for us.  Instead, we must learn to filter our feelings and circumstances through the unchanging promises of God given to us in the Scriptures.

So, if it seems like your problems are just too big to handle, don’t make the same mistake as Elijah (and so many others) Resist the temptation to let defeat, discouragement and disappointment drive you to the darkness at the back of the cave. Instead, do as Elijah did.  Respond to the quiet voice of God, leave your place of retreat and make His presence your permanent dwelling place.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
The Lord of hosts is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:1-3, 11


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