Have you ever faced a crisis or problem in your life that made you feel truly devastated? Maybe it was a serious problem with your family’s finances or you lost a long-time job. It could have been an issue with your health, an illness that caused you to be bed-ridden or an injury that left you with constant, debilitating pain. Or maybe it was the death of a loved one – a parent, a spouse, or even one of your precious children. With this great loss, you experienced grief and an overwhelming sense of discouragement. Dealing with circumstances like these, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, to feel totally alone.
I Kings Chapter 19 gives us the account of Elijah, a faithful prophet of God, who experienced great feelings of both fear and discouragement. In the previous chapter, I Kings 18, Elijah had shown great courage when he had boldly confronted King Ahab, his many false prophets, and the assembled people of Israel. He had admonished them for their acceptance of idol worship and had challenged the prophets of Baal to produce proof of their god’s existence. This confrontation culminated with the power of the one, true living God being displayed by the consuming of both the sacrifice and the altar by fire from heaven and the people of Israel recognizing God as the one true deity. Following Elijah’s instructions, the people then seized the false prophets and assisted Elijah in their execution. When Ahab’s wife, the wicked queen Jezebel was informed of these events, she responded by calling for the death of Elijah. Fearful and dejected, the prophet fled the country of Israel in search of safety and refuge.
Reaching Beersheba, on the southern border of Judah, an exhausted, dispirited Elijah prays to God in I Kings 19:4, “…that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’” [NKJV] Overwhelmed by feelings of discouragement and frustration, he wants his life to end! Nevertheless, sustained by divine assistance, Elijah eventually makes it to Mount Horeb in the Sinai. This is the place called “the mountain of God” in Exodus 18:5, the same location where Moses received the Ten Commandments.(1) It is at Horeb where God asks the prophet, on two separate occasions, the same question: “‘What are you dong here, Elijah?’” Elijah responds to these repeated questions by offering the same answer in both verses 10 and 14 of I Kings 19: He had fled due to the unrighteous attitude and actions of the children of Israel and the threats made against his life. Facing these great troubles and tribulations, he believes that “…I alone am left.” Yet, Elijah soon learns that he was mistaken!
In I Kings 19:15 – 17, God answers Elijah’s complaints by basically telling him that he needed to: “Get back to work!” He then informs the prophet in v. 18 that seven thousand people in Israel had remained faithful and had not accepted idolatry. The important lesson that Elijah learned that day is one that we, too, need to learn: whatever our circumstances in life, we are never truly alone. Despite our situation, whether good or bad, despite our location in this world, God is there. The psalmist David reassures us in Psalm 139:10 that wherever we find ourselves: “Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” How encouraging it is that God is there, ready to guide us, if we but turn to Him. Like Elijah and many other individuals described in the scriptures (such as Job and Jeremiah) who dealt with difficult circumstances, we need to place our trust in the Lord and learn not to depend on our “… own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). When troubles beset us, we need to turn to God in prayer and let our “…requests be made known” (Philippians 4:6).
Like the prophet of old, we also need to realize that we are not the only ones who deal, at times, with difficult situations. We are not alone! We need to remember that there are so many others experiencing some of the same types of trials and tribulations that we endure but are still remaining faithful to God. We need to reach out and help these folks and be ready to “bear some burdens” (Galatians 6:2). And we can be confident knowing that some of these same brethren, our good brothers and sisters in Christ, are ready also to help us when we are discouraged, ready to comfort us if we become “…fainthearted” (I Thessalonians 5:14).
(1) Ronald F. Youngblood, F.F. Bruce, and R.K. Harrison, Nelson’s Student Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), 110.