On a personal level, these past few weeks been quite trying. A few things that really looked as if they were going to turn out positively spoiled at the last second, I was thrown multiple curve balls, and during the brightest spot of the week (yes, I got to go to Universal Studios for a few days and that was AWESOME), I ended up hurting myself which caused a major damper on my softball game Friday night. For whatever reason, my wife and have been at each other’s throats, and I have just generally been annoyed all the time. If you are in anyway unsure of the reason for this particular rant, it is because I am COMPLANING! Yes, I am.
One of the things that I have always found interesting in life is how your life lessons tend to mirror your particular experiences of that time period. It becomes even more noticeable as a teacher; in this case, a youth group leader planning a lesson for Sunday morning youth worship. I suppose I should have known what would happen when I decided to teach on 1 Kings 19, which is a lovely story in which Elijah the prophet wants to kill himself. Don’t let anyone say that the Bible doesn’t cover the hard topics.
Reading through this particular chapter, it is truly amazing to see the difficulty of life through Elijah’s eyes. In the previous chapter, Elijah had won his biggest battle which included insulting Baal and Asherah—this is one of my all-time favorite stories, because Elijah actually mocks the other gods’ prophets by asking where their god is. “Is he sleeping? Or maybe on the toilet?”—along with the killing of each of the 850 prophets after God shows up licking up the entire area with fire. It’s the perfect chapter for movie treatment. Major obstacles, an angry and hateful king, a harlot queen, and a man confident enough in his mission to bring it all down would make an amazing silver screen spectacle. The problem is, though, that you can’t leave the story half-way finished. Coming down from that incredible mountaintop experience, Elijah has to run for his life from Jezebel (the harlot queen), which is a chase that leads him to destitution at that mouth of a distant cave somewhere.
He hasn’t slept, eaten, relaxed, or talked with a friend in who knows how long. He is alone, starving, and frustrated. That’s when he lets it out. “God, let me die!” He screams his pain into the night air. It’s fairly easy to picture. Elijah finally was able to sit down and take care of his feet that had beaten up and down while on the run. Blisters the size of quarters were compounded on each other, the result of broken sandals not able to hold up to the vicious pace of his gait. Standing must have felt like murder. His blood sugar was most likely crashing, as that can happen to anyone who burns too many carbs without replenishment. Shaking, not just from the cold, he had nothing but a jagged rock on which to lay his head. ‘This sucks’ (or the Hebrew equivalent) must have raced through his head a thousand times. It is at this point, the still, small voice of God begins to act.
Funny, though; God doesn’t fix Elijah’s problems. One of the godliest men in history prayed and prayed for an answer, yet God did not accept his request to die, nor did He change Elijah’s situation. What God did was much more intimate. First, he helped Elijah fall into a deep sleep to regain some strength. Then, He fed Elijah with manna from Heaven. After a few rounds of eating and sleeping, God opened Himself to Elijah through an experience of power. He showed Elijah a windstorm, earthquake, and other powerful storms, yet those God was not in (funny, He was in the fire storm on Mt. Carmel). He was in the still small voice that flew on the gentle breeze. God is who you need Him to be every time you connect with Him. Sometimes it’s the mighty power of a fire storm, or a pillar of cloud to follow. Other times it’s a still, small voice. The key is, He is who you need Him to be.
Lastly, he commands Elijah to go connect with other people and give them instructions – in other words, go back to work. The last command, however, is more than just his next assignment. God has Elijah go find Elisha and start preparing him to be the successor. In other words, God gave Elisha to Elijah to keep him company; build his community. Now he has some support to lean on. It was also the light at the end of the tunnel.
You see, God never promises an easy life. He doesn’t even not promise that we won’t face difficult times on occasion. He goes all the way to promise that we WILL have them! “All those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Yet, inside the chaos he offers three things: chicken (NOT literally), connection with Him, and community support. God won’t let us die until our job on earth is over. He will give you the resources you need to accomplish the work he has for you. That doesn’t mean you’ll be rich and happy; it means your needs will be met until He decides to call you home. You may not always be comfortable, but at least you know He will provide. Suck it all in; His water does quench.