I’ve had a battle this year with my emotions feeling like a roller coaster. Up and down, happy and depressed, overwhelmed and carefree, loved and unloved. If you can name one extreme to the other, I’ve probably felt it this year. Maybe in the same day. Its partly because of this that I’ve come to love the prophet Elijah and his story. Or really, the story of God’s response to him.
I started studying this story several years ago when I was working on my book about depression. Elijah clearly battled the same battle I described. From being up on the mountain top to down in the depths, Elijah felt it all. And also in a short period of time. For the next several weeks we’re going to take a look at his story.
We all know the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Of his epic stand off with them, his sarcastic mocking of their God who may have been out to lunch, his utter confidence in his God finally ending with fire coming down from heaven and consuming the wet sacrifice.
I like to think of him as being a little dramatic, don’t you think? I can just see him and his sarcasm driving the prophets of Baal crazy. And then slowly pouring all the buckets of water around the sacrifice while smiling. I think he enjoyed this mountain top experience and showing up everyone else. His words and his actions led to a very dramatic and miraculous day on the mountain top.
Suddenly, mere verses later, we find him running from Jezebel, scared, alone, hiding. Where was his bravado now? Had his confidence in God just disappeared?
Not only is he exhausted and running away by the brook, he makes a crazy request of God. He starts praying and asks God to just kill him. What a bold request. But there’s his drama showing through again. After his mountain top experience, he suddenly falls so low, so into the pit of despair, that he actually asks the Creator God to kill him.
Life is like that so often. Amazing mountain top experiences melt away into the depths of despair. Some of us are dramatic like Elijah and it happens in a day or two, for others the swing is much slower, but still there. Its the natural swing of life. Mountains and valleys. Peace and pits. Highs and lows.
Its easy to see the benefits of being up on the mountain. Elijah’s faith was strengthened, he was a witness for his God, the nation was rid of much idolatry. But what about the brook? What about the depths of despair? How was that beneficial? What good can come out of just wanting to die?
I Kings 19 takes us on a journey showing a man who had given all and was now tired and done. And it shows us a gracious God who gives him just what he needs.
We might look at that request of Elijah’s and think that God would figure He might as well kill him right there by the brook. Or that He would be angry and strike him with fire like the prophets of Baal. Or that He would just leave him to his own devices, being such a useless and ungrateful servant.
But no. That’s not our God. He didn’t see him as useless, or ungrateful, or impertinent, or worthy of punishment. He knew Elijah’s state and chose to care for him as the beloved son that he was.
In verse 4, Elijah asks God to kill him. In verse 5, he goes to sleep. When he wakes up, an angel was there to greet him. Not only did God send an angel to greet him, but He sent one who could cook. The angel provided for Elijah’s basic needs, took care of him, then told him to sleep again. An amazing meal was coming after that second sleep, but we’ll talk about that next week.
For now, we see the benefits of being by the brook. Of being in despair.
Its there that we see God’s provision for us. On the mountain, Elijah was confident and sarcastic and performing miracles. But when he came to the end of himself, when he could no longer fight, when he was scared and running and depressed, it’s then that he saw the tender love of his Father. It’s when God told him to sleep and eat and rest. It was a chance to feel loved and taken care of.
If you’re like me, you worry about what God thinks when you’re tired of life, when you’re by the brook like Elijah. But we can rest in God’s response to us. He will always send provision. And not just provision, but love and understanding. He sends us angels that give us just what we need. He provides. He takes care. And sometimes he even tells us to enjoy a good nap.
Even if we can see no other benefit to being in the pit of despair, we can look for the provision of our loving Father and rest in His care of us.