By Dustin Allman
Pastor, The Fort Church, Kingsport
A story is told of a pastor who was well known to express thanksgiving in his pastoral prayers. One day, he stood to pray on a bleak, nasty, snowy and icy Sunday morning. One of the church members whispered to another, “Surely, he will find nothing to be thankful for on such a dreadful day as this!” To his surprise, the pastor began his petition to the Lord, “We thank Thee, O God … that most days are not like this.”
It’s good to know that even on days of despair and disappointment, there is a foundation of hope that can lead us to thanksgiving.
Yet we must remember, for every mountaintop experience, there is a valley. With every thrill of victory, there is a shadow of defeat. Thankfully, God is in the shadows, has defeated death forever and never abandons His own.
God will sustain us in our weakness. In 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah on the run for his life and settles in a cave. In his despair and exhaustion, he asks God to take his life. Usually in prayers of desperation, we may pray “God spare my life!” This is quite different.
But Elijah wasn’t the first person and won’t be the last person to despair of life.
Moses told God, “Kill me right now” (Numbers 11:15). Job wished that he would have never been born (Job 10:18-19). Jeremiah cursed the day of his birth (Jeremiah 20:14). Jonah asked God to take away his life because death was better than life (Jonah 4:3). Instead of giving these men what they wanted in their moment of weakness, God sustained and restored them.
I’m so glad we have these stories in our Bible. There was no eyewitness other than Elijah who could have reported it! God encouraged and delivered him.
And ironically, he was the one prophet who never died at all but was instead taken up into heaven (II Kings 2:11). No matter what you’re facing, it’s good to identify with this struggling saint!
The Lord confronts him with a question (I Kings 19:9) “What are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah’s response focused entirely on himself: he professed his zeal for the Lord, unlike his fellow countrymen, who had rejected the covenant and killed the prophets. He claimed to be the only prophet left standing. In a sense, Elijah seems to be putting some blame on God for not fulfilling His responsibilities.
God will use what seems ordinary for transformation. After the showdown at Mount Carmel, Elijah was drained physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are often vulnerable after victory. We need manna every day. We cannot live on yesterday’s victories.
As Jesus reminds us in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us THIS day our daily bread.” And Elijah is isolated. As Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway shows us, we weren’t made to be on an island by ourselves. God has given us something far better than a volleyball; he’s given us a church family to belong to!
God shows Elijah a mighty wind, an earthquake and a fire. His voice was not to be found in those powerful occurrences. Elijah’s transformation of attitude comes in a whisper. God is showing that He is not only present in the magnificent things, but is just as present in the smallest things of life and often accomplishes purposes through ordinary means. B&R