If ever there were an Old Testament character we could all relate to during these troubled times, it would be Elijah, without a doubt. Many of us remember him as one of the most famous Biblical prophets, known for putting the prophets of Baal in their place and being taken into Heaven by the fiery chariot.
But there is another, far more somber part of his story that bears mentioning, especially as our world sighs in fatigue and gloom over the tragedy we’ve endured thanks to this pandemic. Yes, Elijah was a man with immense faith in God, who had powerful awesome moments.
But he was also a man who, at one point, directly asked God to let him die.
‘But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”’1 Kings 19:4
After Elijah proved to the people that God was supreme, and executing the prophets of Baal, the wicked queen Jezebel threatened to kill him in turn. Elijah feared for his life and fled into the wilderness. He felt that for all he had done, he had failed nonetheless.
Elijah was dealing with severe depression, a crippling kind that prevented him from finding hope. He was in utter despair.
But God refused to abandon him.
And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.1 Kings 19:5-8
Instead of admonishing him, God instead sends an angel to give him nourishment, twice. The supernatural power of this food and drink gives Elijah the strength to walk for 40 days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
When Elijah arrives at the cave in Horeb, he hears God ask him, “Why are you here?”
‘He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”’1 Kings 19:10
Elijah believed, out of despair, that he was the only prophet of God left. He believed that he was alone. Naturally, he was wrong, but he was understandably overwhelmed and in a depressive state in this moment, preventing him from seeing beyond his weariness. He needed hope, and God knew how to give it to him.
‘And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.’1 Kings 19:11-12
God caught Elijah (and heck, us readers too!) off guard by revealing how he typically speaks to us: through gentle, quiet whispers. I’m sure that for Elijah, who had recently witnessed God call forth a font of holy fire, this was a soothingly jarring moment.
In His words to His despairing prophet, God gave Elijah the inspiration he needed to fight on. The battle wasn’t over yet, and even though Elijah felt he couldn’t go on, God knew how to gently but powerfully lift him back on his feet.
Call on Dad
God is our Dad. We’re meant to approach him as a kid would their father, asking for guidance and protection as we go about life’s winding journey. His is the greatest help we can rely on, no matter what life throws at us during our time here on Earth. When it becomes too much to bear, God knows best how to carry us through it.
God never invalidates our pain or our depression. Instead, He hears us out, and gently finds a way to lift us up, even when we feel utterly broken.
So many of us, more than we think, have at one time had the thought “I want to die, death would be better than this.” How sobering to know that one of the most famous prophets once did, too.
I’ve never been, nor will I ever be suicidal, but folks, I’ve had this thought cross my mind myself. 5 years ago, during my senior year at college, when I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the overwhelming…everything that was my last year. I was afraid for my future.
I had this thought cross my mind last week, as everything we’ve been dealing with during this pandemic, especially that horrid, unshakeable despair, became too much to deal with. I assure you all, it’s not that I wanted to die. I just wanted to be at peace. Because I sure as heck didn’t feel at peace with everything I was dealing with. After all of the spiritual experiences God’s given me over the years, my fear of death has been obliterated. I see it, when our time naturally comes, as the ultimate peace.
God lifted me up, as He did with Elijah. He never turns away from his grieving children, no matter what lies the world, our desolate thoughts, or the enemy might feed us.
It’s been a horrid 12 months for all of us. And guys, let’s be honest, some of these days have felt almost impossible to get through. But I know that hope is coming for us out of the darkness of this pandemic. I can feel it. The light at the end of this long tunnel is so, so close.
May we remember to rely on God to see us all through to the end of this war against COVID-19, to the peace of mind and soul that we all need.