One of today’s readings reminded me that even a super-duper saint like Elijah got tired, tired, tired. Just like so many folks today are tired, tired, tired.
Years ago after being a busy Relief & Development worker, Virginia was tired, tired, tired. Taking time out for an 8-day silent retreat, I wrote the following reflection about Elijah. May his example touch tired-out hearts today.
It’s a bit longer than usual, so grab a cup of tea…
This morning I got to thinking about Elijah. Thank you, God, for his faith going up against the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18-19) and for Your faithfulness when he ran, pell-mell, from Jezebel after that great victory on Mt. Carmel.
Why does Elijah’s example seem so relevant now?
He had faith of immense proportions. Gigantic. Huge. He taunted the 450 prophets of Baal. He not only put wood on the altar of sacrifice, he immersed it with buckets of water that turned the trench around the altar into a small lake.
He believed. His faith said, “God is GOD of miracles that bring glory to God’s name. We will make a water-logged altar so the people will know God’s response is not a lucky fluke, but a miracle.”
Then Elijah witnessed Your blazing fire completely consume the sacrifice and evaporate buckets of water in the trenches. In the throes of Your miraculous response, Elijah wiped out the prophets of Baal. Victory for God, Hallelujah! The saints will now start marching on the palace to root out the evil rulers of the day.
He prayed and You faithfully whipped up a major miracle.
Fresh from victory and miracles, Elijah hears Jezebel is on the warpath to get him. Does he remember Your awesome power? Your faithfulness when he stood one against 450?
No. He turns into a cowardly pile of jelly and runs into the desert to hide. From a Public Relations perspective, it was bad timing to run. After such a huge victory for God he should have filled the Judean airwaves with anti-Jezebel messages and pro-God sound bytes. (The FIRE has come. God wants you: NOW!)
Instead, Elijah runs “in fear for his very life.”
Where is his awesome faith now? The faith that let him taunt the Baal prophets? The faith that believed in Your victorious triumph over evil? The faith that believed in Your overwhelming ability to respond, not with just a match-stick flame to lightly toast the sacrifice but with awesome power to handle water-logged trenches too?
Unfortunately, Elijah’s “buckets of water” faith suffered a few faith-beats of failure. When he heard Jezebel’s threat to kill him, he didn’t stop to pray, he just ran. (It says something about Jezebel, that she was more frightening than 450 men.)
Yet despite these faith-beat failures, You restored and renewed Elijah.
He was tired. Very, very tired. You let him sleep and provided food.
Then he walked for 40 days and nights with supernatural strength to Mt. Horeb. There, after a bombastic hurricane, earthquake and fire passed by, he heard Your still, small voice.
In the quiet of his heart, Elijah heard Your voice.
What did You say? The record in the first book of Kings doesn’t elaborate much. Maybe Elijah was too uncomfortable to include the private bits of Your conversation. Maybe they went something like this:
“Elijah, I am with you ALWAYS: in victory and in defeat. When you act with courage, I am with you, strengthening your faith. Know also, that when you are afraid – when fear grips your very soul, paralyzing your mind – I am with you.
I will meet your needs. I will cover your back, guiding your steps against the evil pursuing you. I will protect you with the armor of My love and let your spirit soar on the wings of My joy. My peace will permeate your anxiety. My mercy and grace will handle your failures. My wisdom will help clarify what really matters. I will restore and renew your faith. My angels will look after you.
Believe in Me and in My love for You.
See, you are not alone. There are others faithful to Me. Look around and you will find help in this battle against the darkness.
It’s not all about you, it’s about Me. I AM God of all consuming Light. I will blaze My fire through doubts blocking your sight. Open the doors of your heart wider. Break the chains of fear. Let the brilliant light of My kingdom within you shine for all to see.
You have seen My miracles outside you, now let the Holy Spirit empower new miracles within you. New mercies are available every morning, just turn on the Heavenly tap.
Be infused with sparkling champagne of the spiritual realm: My steadfast love for you.
Let My love transform you. See, I am here with you always.
When you are weak, I am strong. Don’t be dismayed.
Those buckets of cold water you’ve poured into the tired out trenches around your heart, let the spark of My love ignite them back into blazing furnaces of faith: ready for transformation; ready for action; ready to be who, where, and what I want you to be.
Go now, be my Hands and Feet to the hurting. Be grace. Be mercy. Be peace. Be salt in this tasteless world. Be joy. Be light – brilliant, burning bright – in the darkness.
Be love. Be ME.”
After listening to Your still, small voice, Elijah went back with his faith renewed and followed Your plan. What a lesson from a great saint about faith. But why is this meaningful 5,000 years (or so) later?
Just as Elijah ran in fear, pell-mell, to the desert, I may have knowingly (or unknowingly) done the same thing.
Oh God, even after witnessing countless examples (often miraculous) of Your awesome faithfulness, I have suffered faith-beat failures. The need is too great. The obstacles are too big. I am too tired. My get-up-and-go got up and left. I am stuck in the snow of inertia with fear-bitten feet, too cold to walk forward into the new.
As Elijah’s buckets of water faith weathered the drought of fear and exhaustion, I want to follow his example now.
Please, God, strengthen my faith. Let the warmth of Your love melt my fear-bitten feet. Ignite my heart’s desire to be transformed with the Flame of Your Kingdom: come, Holy Spirit, in the Name of Jesus Christ fill me with Your Fire.
Heavenly Father, fill this clay, earthen pot with the sparkling champagne of the spiritual realm – your steadfast Love for me and all those around me. Let this heart beat as one with Your love, joy, peace, grace, wisdom, mercy and patience.
May You provide a deep well of courage to move forward, one step at a time, to face whatever challenges may come with renewed faith – Elijah’s buckets-of-water kind!
Virginia : )