Have you ever felt weary and depleted? If so, you are in good company! 1 Kings 19 describes how one day the prophet Elijah experienced a huge letdown. He had just defeated the 450 prophets of Baal in an epic showdown; the people of Israel repented of their idol-worship and fell onto their faces declaring their devotion to Yahweh. Afterwards, through Elijah’s efforts, it rained in Israel for the first time in over three years. It was a complete and stunning victory.
Then it all fell apart. In retribution, the evil Queen Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah so he fled 120 miles on foot to the southern tip of Israel and prayed that God would take him to heaven. He didn’t want to live anymore.
What’s going on here? Elijah appears to be spent, depleted, even depressed. It seems the culprit could have been what’s known as “Post-performance depression” It’s a real-life struggle for many musicians, actors, dancers, and professional athletes. There is such preparation and build up to the big event and/or competition that when it’s over, they crash because their endorphin levels crash. It can happen to soldiers when finishing training school or flight school or after completing a big mission. Teachers and professors can have a similar experience at the end of the school year. It happens frequently to mothers: after they give birth, many experience Post-partum depression. Their bodies are spent after carrying a child and giving birth. So perhaps Elijah’s experience is common.
But here’s what’s great: God comforted Elijah and met his needs in tangible ways. First God sent an angel. When Elijah felt alone and isolated the angel touched him. Human beings need touch. Psychologists have done studies proving that babies need physical and emotional attention through being cuddled and held to properly develop and mature. However, if infants are deprived of touch, they have a much higher risk of behavioral, emotional, and social problems. Touch connects us to others and reminds us we are not alone.
Next the angel gave Elijah badly needed food and water: he provided freshly baked bread and a jar of water. In the midst of Elijah’s despair, God made sure to meet Elijah’s tangible needs by fulfilling his hunger.
Now, what about you? Is there someone in your life that needs the ministry of touch? I am thinking about a hug or a hand on the shoulder. Or is there someone in your life that needs the ministry of a meal? Oftentimes, a small but tangible act of kindness goes a long way in helping ease the pain and suffering of other people.
Or perhaps you are the one suffering. What’s interesting about Elijah is that after the angel helped him, he kept moving forward. He didn’t stop and say “Thank you God.” He neglected to recognize and appreciate God’s kindness to him. If you feel God has abandoned you, I encourage you to think back and reexamine recent events: perhaps there were people in your life who gave you a hug, a meal, a card or an encouraging word. Perhaps God send them to express his love and care but you didn’t recognize it at the time.
There’s an old story about the religious man trapped in rising floodwaters (you can find different versions of this story on the Internet; this one comes from storiesforpreaching.com). He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.” “No thanks” he replied. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”
A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.” “No thanks,” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”
A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.” “No thanks” he replied. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”
All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until the religious man drowned. When he arrived at Heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in Heaven? I prayed for you to save me: I trusted you to save me from that flood.”
“Yes you did my child,” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.”
Like Elijah or the religious man, is it possible God reached out to you in your time of need and you failed to recognize Him?