We all know of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. I challenge you to re-read 1 Kings 19. Elijah, the great prophet Elijah, was so overcome by fear at one point he ran into the desert begging God to let him die. He lied down under a bush and fell asleep. In other words, he found a place out of the beating sun; somewhere he could simply die of thirst and hunger. He beseeched God to let him pass away in the shade of this bush. But God had other plans. Twice, God fed him in this physical and emotional desert. Then when He believed Elijah to be "rested enough," He sent an angel. "The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, 'Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.'" Geeeee, what words of encouragement! Can you imagine how Elijah might have felt…he had ran away from his home into the desert because he was terrified he was about to be brutally murdered; he had entreated God to kill him; he was hot and emotionally drained; he had only eaten what the angel had provided once before; he still knew his life was in danger; and he was being told bluntly "oh yeah by the way, without My help, you ain't gonna make it but I want you to go anyhow." (Ok a bit of a paraphrase on my part.) With all this emotional turmoil, Elijah stands up, shakes the sand from his sandals, eats the food, and walks for 40 days and 40 nights. He finds a cave to crash for awhile, hoping to hear from the Lord. So he watches for any sign. He hears a powerful wind… nothing, rocks shattering… nothing, a raging fire and yet nothing. He has to be getting disappointed by this time, let alone frustrated. The Great and Powerful God who created the earth, He would surely speak through something grand like an earthquake, Right? Nope. Next Elijah barely hears a faint little whisper. After all that, God talks to him through a "whisper?!"
I don't know about you, but I've had those moments of crying out to God begging for an answer, or better yet to go home to Him. In the roaring of the mental and emotional chaos and with the magnitude of the situation, I wanted God to do something grand and to speak LOUDLY and BOLDLY to me. I wanted to world to hear I am protected by God and I am His child and servant. But no, He comes along side and sends an angel. Sometimes these "angels" come in human form: someone who smiles at us at just the right time, someone from church who comes over and prays with us, a phone call from an old friend. Often He speaks through "the simple things." Sometimes it’s a beautiful sunset or the quiet of the river as it whooshes by with a family of ducks bobbing along. Other times, it is a sense of peace and a soft word that could only be from Him. Or some quiet message in a dream.
Joyce Meyers in her book, "Battlefield of the Mind," talks about calming the chatter in our minds so we can stay focused on Him. It is by remaining attentive to Him that we find peace amongst the storm. My mom used to say, "Sometimes He comes the storm, sometimes He calms the child." I think this is what Paul was talking about in the book of Philippians. Our struggles can seem so petty compared to Paul's. He was shipwrecked many times, hunted down by people who wanted to kill him, talked about poorly, stoned multiple times, nearly beaten to death several times, left hungry and chained up in prison for his faith. Yet he says, "To die is gain, but to live is for Christ." Paul wanted to go home to be with the Lord as well, yet, knew to remain a living faithful servant of God honored his Heavenly Father.
So back to Elijah, Elijah's mind must have been running rampant with fear; anxiety; anger; feeling abandoned by God; questioning if God was truly using him as His servant, where was He in all this; and conflicted because his human emotions were so strong, yet, knowing he was suppose to trust God for deliverance. The storm raged both outside his body and within his mind. God let Elijah have his moment of break down. He knows we are human and need to release those feelings. He wants us to release them in a healthy way, while continuing to trust Him. Elijah did that, he physically escaped, cried out to God, probably cried, and found a spot where he could rest. God didn't comfort Elijah by bringing him home to heaven, but sent an angel with food and water; just enough to feed him for the moment. Elijah must have questioned this while being grateful for the food. He continued to rest, to be woken up to be told God was not through with him. God didn't calm the external storm; Elijah's life was still in danger, the desert was still hot and he was still hungry. But God calmed the child within His servant. He acknowledged Elijah's pain and struggles. Elijah could have said, "Thank you God. I know You love me. I am going to stay right here and die. I just can't do this anymore." But he didn't. He probably said, "oohhh ok. Thanks for this food and water. Can you give me the game plan of what I need to do now?" As we all know, God gives us just enough information to get us the next few steps. God had directed him to walk for 40 days and nights, for whatever reason known only to Him. Then God said, "Go back the way you came and go to the Desert of Damascus." Now I would be saying, "Are You serious!? Back the way I came?? Why didn't You leave me there in the first place? Do You know what is waiting for me there? They are going to kill me? What part of this are You not getting?" But Elijah returns to Damascus where he anoints other men of God. Like Paul, he believed death would be a wonderful release from earthly torment and could imagine coming into the house of God. No pain. No suffering. No fear. No anxiety. Yet, he faced the reality of his situation with faith that God would also walk through this storm with him. He lived his life for God. He found strength in his struggles.
Dear brothers and sisters, I guarantee you will experience storms with strong human emotions. I do not believe God expects us not to experience these feelings. I believe He wants us to cry out to Him just as Elijah and Paul did. He wants us to allow Him to calm the storms of our lives, or sometimes calm our reactions to the turmoil, so we can find purpose and strength from the rough waves of life. The next time you are faced with overwhelming struggles, cry out to God. Tell Him all about it. But never stop listening for that calm still voice saying, "I am here child. I am going to walk with you through this. Yes, it's going to be tough and without me, you are really going to labor. But I know where you are, who you are, and how I can use you to help someone else." Then take His hand and walk.
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