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Coping with Despair
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"I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." -1 Kings 19:4
There are times we feel like Elijah: fearful, lonely, hopeless. Like many of the Biblical characters, we are not immune to despair. After all, we live in a world that presents much glitter and gold, but holds little of hope.
Yet, we can also learn much from Biblical characters. Here are four truths we can pick up from Elijah about coping with despair.
1. God does not forsake us. No matter what we’re going through or what we’re feeling, God is still there caring and providing for us. He sent an angel to feed Elijah and then he himself spoke to Elijah.
God does the same for us, but it does require faith. So going through despair is actually an opportunity for our faith to rise. It is also an opportunity to hear what God has to say to us.
2. God reveals himself in our despair. He did so with Elijah. Psalm 34:18 encourages us to know that “God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Although God had revealed his awesome power to Elijah, God also wanted to reveal that he was gentle. Indeed, for God is love and it is in moments of brokenness that his tenderness is best revealed. Despair can be the pathway to a more intimate relationship with God.
3. God is at work even if we think he’s not. Elijah believed his defeat of Baal’s prophets had come to nothing and that he was the only one left to carry out God’s work. But God said otherwise that there were those who had not “bowed their knees to Baal.”
At times we come to a point in our toils, whether in ministry or lay work, when we ask ourselves if our labor is in vain. It is not as long as our work is dedicated unto the Lord. We may not immediately see the fruit or results, but it doesn’t mean God is not at work. 1 Corinthians 15:58 reminds us: “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
4. God wants to use us in spite of what we’re undergoing. He told Elijah to anoint Elisha. This meant teaching and training Elisha with all that he knew. Yet, this doesn’t mean God was impervious to Elijah’s emotions or is he to ours. On the contrary. It is in our brokenness that God rebuilds, renews, refreshes.
It is best for us to teach others who the Lord is and what he can do when we carry with us the experiences of pain rising up to healing; mourning turning to joy, failure fading into success; despair reaching into hope.
We then prove that, even if we’re but human with all its frailties, there is the divine that can uphold us with all its perfection. Jesus said that “no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand.”
When we are in despair, God is just holding us closer.
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