In my previous post, I began the discussion of what happens when we face discouragement and spiritual depression. If you've not read that post yet, let me encourage you to do that first - https://www.taylorroad.org/single-post/2018/05/29/Battling-a-Broke-Spirit-Part-1.
So, back to the story of Elijah. If you'll remember, the slippery slope of discouragement is: Fear, Withdrawal, Isolation, and Giving Up. I want to continue the rest of Elijah's story and see how God rescues us from a broken spirit.
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 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.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 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. 7 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.” 8 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.
9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 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.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” 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.12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 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.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
(1 Kings 19:1-18)
Elijah was at the end of his rope and wallowing in the pit of discouragement and despair.
No matter how deep we sink into despair, God's love won't leave us there.
I want you to think about something. In verses 5-8, we're told that the Angel of the Lord woke Elijah up and encouraged him to eat the hot bread and drink the water.
There are two very important things about this. First, most Bible scholars agree that whenever "the Angel of the Lord" appears in the Old Testament, it is most likely the second person of the Trinity - the Son of God. In other words, it's "Jesus" before the incarnation. So, there in the wilderness of Elijah's despair, the place where he was ready to throw in the towel, God Himself met him.
God doesn't expect us to crawl ourselves out of the pit back to Him. He meets us right where we are.
Isn't this what the incarnation - Christmas - is all about? God, taking on human flesh, and coming into our mess with us. Psalm 34:18 tells us that God draws near to the brokenhearted. Jesus is attracted to messy, broken people. Isn't that good news? I think we call that "gospel."
The second important truth in this is found in the bread and the water. Think about this for a second - who cooked the bread and brought the water? It wasn't Elijah. It wasn't his servant. In fact, he left the servant outside the wilderness! I believe the bread and the water were provided by the Son of God - the Angel of the Lord.
Not only does God meet us where we are in our despair, He provides what we need for healing and refreshment.
So many times, when we're down in the pit of discouragement, we try every avenue for getting out. We try positive thinking, self help books, meditation - whatever we think will work. Jesus meets us in our brokenness and provides what we need for restoration.
In John chapters six and seven, Jesus uses two metaphors to describe Himself. He calls Himself the "bread of life" and the "living water" and He tells us that when we come to Him we will find life, healing, and redemption.
So...God meets us right where we are, He pulls us out of the pit of despair, but there's one more thing God does in response to our brokenness.
After waking Elijah up and telling him to eat, the Angel of the Lord tells Elijah that he will need nourishment for the journey. Wait...a journey??? You can imagine Elijah's confusion, here. He's come out to the wilderness to give up and die. I believe Elijah was convinced that in the wilderness one of three things was going to happen: God was going to kill him, Jezebel was going to kill him, or he was going to have to take his own life. But, now, God is saying there's a journey? This is good stuff...
No matter how far you've sunk, God is not finished with you.
Elijah had given up on himself but God hadn't given up on Elijah. God wasn't finished using Elijah. It wasn't Elijah's "right" to tell God that it was all over. Only God reserves the right to make that decision.
What was God's purpose for Elijah? Well, the journey was to lead him to Mount Horeb - the Mountain of God. You probably have heard it called Mount Sinai. There is definite parallel in this story to Jesus as Elijah journeyed for forty days and nights but the point is that God was drawing Elijah into His presence. He wanted to bring Elijah into His presence so that He could reveal Himself to Elijah and commission for a new purpose and calling.
God doesn't just come to us in our brokenness and refresh us with the bread and water of life, He invites us into deeper relationship and fellowship with Him and restores what we thought was lost.
Maybe you've found yourself in the deep and dark pit of despair. Let God meet you there. Maybe you've found yourself broken, withdrawn and isolated. Let the Bread of Life and the Living Water restore your soul. Find your identity and hope in Jesus alone. Maybe you've found yourself ready to throw in the towel. Let Jesus restore your purpose, draw you into deeper fellowship with Him and commission you for His glory. Don't waste your painful experience. Let God heal you and use you.