I find Elijah to be one of the most relatable prophets in the Bible. He’s passionate about God, performs some amazing miracles, but he’s also very sarcastic, overly dramatic, negative and cynical at times, and constantly discouraged. I love Elijah, because like him I also experience spiritual highs and lows. God does amazing things through me, but I also tend to beat myself up and get discouraged sometimes. 1 Kings 19 is one of those chapters where we see Elijah discouraged despite having gone through some amazing moments with God.
In 1 Kings 18 he challenges the prophets of Baal to call down fire, watches them make fools of themselves for hours, and calls down fire in seconds. Then he prophecies rain, and the clouds start coming. He tells Ahab to head back to Jezreel, and while Ahab mounts his chariot, Elijah hikes up his tunic, and sprints all the way to Jezreel beating the horses and chariots there. Elijah is so afraid of the threats that Jezebel has made that he leaves everything behind and runs away. It’s like he’s forgotten all the things God had done through him in the past years.
We tend to get tunnel-vision sometimes in our spiritual lives. We can’t see into the future where God has worked all things, every little detail, for good, and we forget about all the ways God has delivered us and blessed us in the past. We become so focused on our present sufferings or difficulties or challenges that we fail to see that we’ve been in similar situations before, and made it through by God’s grace. And even if this present challenge is something we’ve never faced before we forget that God has been continually faithful in the past. If He has been faithful, you can believe in faith that He will continue to be faithful. He who has started a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Phil.1:6). God hasn’t brought you to this moment in your life just to abandon you in your season of difficulty.
The Journey is Too Much
Elijah runs, and continues to run until he reaches the point of exhaustion. He collapses under the closest shade available and completely passes out, and an angel appears before him, shakes him awake, and tells him, get up and eat. Elijah is alone in the desert, running away from Jezebel, and there beside him is not only food and water, but a warm meal and a cold drink. After Elijah eats a bit and proceeds to pass out again, the angel tells him get up and eat Elijah, because the journey is far too much for you; you don’t have the strength to complete this journey; the length, and difficulty, and challenge of this journey you’re on is far too much for you to handle.
You are going to face challenges in your life that are too much for you to handle. You are going to face difficulties in your life that are too tough for you to overcome. You are going to face seasons in your life that you won’t have the strength to get through, but that’s ok! You don’t have to be the one to handle them; you don’t have to be the one to overcome; you don’t have to be the one to get through. Strength isn’t your department, it’s God’s!
God knew that this journey was far too much for Elijah to handle alone, and so he sends him food to sustain him. Every time there is mention of food and feeding in the story of Elijah, it is directly a result of God’s providence in his life. Food is this symbol between God and Elijah that not only is He with him, and supporting him, but that He is concerned over every little detail of his servants’ life. The journey is too much for many of us, and that’s ok, because it’s meant to be. We are meant to be challenged; we are meant to be tried; we are meant to be face problems and difficulties. Trials are how we grow. They are opportunities for us to practice and exercise our faith. Our time under tension develops good spiritual strength. But what God never does is abandon us on the journey. God will always provide us with the means and the strength to continue on.
Prayer is for Peace
Elijah finally headed the command from God, and got up and ate and drank, and restored his energy, and on this heavenly food and drink he continued on travelling forty days and forty nights until he reached Mt. Horeb. Elijah had previously no motivation to continue on. When he came to the bush and collapsed at its shade, he prayed to God, “Lord this is too much for me, please just end my life. I can’t handle this anymore.” Elijah had lost sight of all the things God had already done in his life, and was experiencing such a difficult time of challenge that he literally thought that dying was a better option than continuing to go through it.
Something I’ve discovered to be true in my life is that prayer is for peace. We pray for relief, and deliverance, and solutions to our problems and challenges, and we become so focused on the desired end results of our prayers that we sometimes fail to see the purpose during prayer. Prayer is to draw strength from God, and to provide us the peace to continue to move forward despite our challenges, despite our lack of motivation, and despite our lack of faith. Elijah was unmotivated, doubtful, and suicidal, but this food that God provided, this moment of prayerful connection with God was the motivating factor to give Elijah enough strength and enough peace to move forward and travel 40 days and nights until he reached his destination.
We can be frustrated with a sense of helplessness. We can be frustrated with the feeling of a lack of answers. We can be frustrated when things don’t go our way. We can be frustrated when the rivers in our lives are to wide, to deep and too fast to cross. We can be frustrated when the walls in our lives are too strong, too high, and too difficult to conquer. We can be frustrated when we feel like we’ve been circling the walls endlessly and they haven’t yet fallen, but prayer isn’t about figuring out how many laps you have to take. Prayer is about finding peace as you march your laps. Prayer is humbling yourself before God and acknowledging that it’s only in His strength that we have strength. Prayer is for peace in the times where the world tries to take it.
The Loudest Whisper
Elijah makes it to Mt. Horeb where he’s about to have an encounter with God. Elijah is in a place rich with history. Mt. Horeb, which in the Bible is the same as mount Sinai, is the mountain where Moses first encounters God through the burning bush. This was the place where all of Israel encounters God in a very real sense when God surrounds the mountain with fire and lightning and where Moses receives Israel’s purpose and The Ten Commandments. This was the place from which the Israelites finally journeyed to Canaan after wandering the desert for 40 years. Continuing in the history of tradition, Elijah encounters God in a meaningful way here.
God tells him that He is about to pass by, and to stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord. Elijah stands on the mountain, literally in the presence of God waiting for God to pass by. There’s a bit of irony that Elijah stands in the presence of God waiting for Him to pass by. How many of us are standing in the presence of God waiting for Him to pass? Sometimes we look for signs or wait for Him to pass right in front of our eyes and yet fail to realize that He’s all around us. But a great and powerful wind tears the mountain and smashes rocks, but God wasn’t in the wind. An earthquake shakes the mountain but God was not in the earthquake. A roaring wildfire burns through any greenery on the mountain, but God’s not in the fire, and when the dust and ash settles, comes a whisper. And it’s in the whisper that God is found.
Elijah is used to having miracles happen in his life. He’s seen God raise people from the dead; he’s seen God withhold water for years; he’s seen God deliver food through scavenger birds; he’s seen God defy reality and provide a bottomless source of food; he’s seen God call down fire from heaven; he’s seen God bring back the rain from one single black cloud. Elijah knows God to present Himself in astounding ways, and so he expects God to pass by in the same manner. It’s not until the whisper is heard that Elijah finds God. We read about all the miracles God performs in the Bible, and we expect God to show up that way all the time. Don’t get me wrong, God still comes through like that, but sometimes God comes through in a whisper. God was behind the wind, but He wasn’t in the wind. God was behind the earthquake, but He wasn’t in the earthquake. God was behind the fire, but He wasn’t in the fire. Don’t be so focused in looking for God in the miraculous that you neglect to see Him in the ordinary.
Sometimes God doesn’t show up in our lives with a crash, and a bang, and a boom. Sometimes He shows up in a whisper. Search for the loudest whisper in your life; that deafening silence of God’s presence; the unmistakable feeling of God in ways you least expect it. Everything we pray for, about, and through isn’t about petitioning or moving an indifferent God. Prayer is about discovering ourselves in the grandeur of who God is. It’s about humbling ourselves before the infiniteness of our creator acknowledging that we have no strength but that which He’s given.
Elijah was running away to escape danger and persecution, but his journey to Mt. Horeb wasn’t a journey of God’s deliverance. Elijah’s deliverance came when he was in the middle of the very danger he was running from. This journey was about discovering himself in the midst of God’s presence. This journey was about discovering who he was in the context of God’s purpose. Don’t run from your problems, or challenges, because God’s deliverance doesn’t come while your running, it comes when you have the faith to tackle it head on. This journey you’re on with God, the journey of your trials and difficulties isn’t you fighting your way to victory. God’s promised the victory is already yours (Joshua 6:2). This journey of trials you’re facing is about you discovering who you are in the grandeur of the God who created you. Prayer is our journey of discovering who we are in the context of all that God has for us.
God I don’t have strength in myself to conquer my challenges, but I know that you give me the strength when the journey is too much for me. Help me to rely on you in times where the journey becomes too difficult. Help me to draw from your strength through prayer and communion with you. Give me that peace that surpasses all understanding. Pour peace and mercy into my life when the world tries to take it. Help me to see you when I am in your presence. Help me to hear your loudest whispers. Help me to be focused on who you are, and not fail to see you in the ordinary in my life. Thank you for guiding me and being with me on this journey. Help me to discover who I am in the context of all that you have for me. Amen.