Discouragement has never been a stranger to the people of God. The greatest men in the Bible faced times of crippling discouragement—times when they couldn’t take another step or cry another tear.
Elijah may be the supreme example of discouragement in all of the Bible. Many find his discouragement to be out of place—irrational—in light of the victory so recently won. But often, on the heels of some great accomplishment, comes great discouragement. At the end of our energies, we encounter the beginning of depression. Watch how this takes place in the life of Elijah
Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And he was afraid and arose and ran for his £life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:1-4 (NASB)
Some of you are walking in Elijah’s shoes. Like him, you are empty—bogged down in the muck and mire of discouragement—unable to face today—and living in constant dread of tomorrow.
Faced with this challenge from his enemy Jezebel, Elijah arose and ran for his life. Was there cause for him to run? Didn’t running exhaust him as much or perhaps more than simply resting in and trusting in God’s presence and protection?
But he did run!
What are you running from? Are you running from God and His plan for your life? Are you running in an effort to do God’s work, that He would do Himself, if you could rest your soul in Him?
And so, many of us find ourselves in a state of spiritual exhaustion. Worn out from worry—worn out from service—worn out from sin—worn out from life—we find ourselves walking in the shoes of Elijah.
Elijah was one day beyond Beersheba. Beersheba was the last outpost of the southern most border of the Promised Land. He was at the end of his rope. There he sat down, gave up, and went to sleep. It was there he began to pray for things that were outside the will of God. He even prayed that he could die. Have you ever prayed such a prayer? Elijah reacted to his circumstances rather than waiting for a word from God. Fear, not faith was ruling his heart. Stepping outside the will of God didn’t eliminate his exhaustion and discouragement. Instead, it magnified it! The same is true for you. You won’t eliminate your discouragement by stepping outside the will of God. You will multiply it.
Elijah was not resting in the Lord. He was running. He was trying to work things out on his own. In a crisis, we have a tendency to turn our faces away from what God can do for us to what we can do four ourselves. Discouragement causes us to lose our trust in God’s perfect knowledge of where we are and what we need. We begin to hew out our own cisterns, and they are always broken cisterns.
Thankfully, we serve a God who will not leave us to our own devices. He will seek us. He will take action to bring us back into a right relationship with Him, and He will seek to speak peace to our troubled hearts. So it was with Elijah.
He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 1 Kings 19:5-7 (NASB)
Here is a principle we need always remember. Whatever road God has for us to travel—wherever He may send us—whatever circumstances that may be ours to face—we need to hear Him say, “The journey is too great for you.”
Elijah looked at his circumstances and measured them against his own
strength. He knew he couldn’t handle it. That’s why he ran. But he should have run to God.
Henry F. Lyte had been a servant of God for many years. At the pinnacle of his career he suddenly found Himself confronted with news that he had only weeks to live. He had walked many roads and faced many challenges, but this was the highest hill he would ever climb. On September 4, 1847 after preaching his final sermon to his congregation, he placed the following poem in the hands of a family member. As expected, a short time later, he went home to be with His Lord. The words make it plain that Henry knew the journey would be too great for Him.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide;
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me!
Elijah couldn’t depend on his own strength to make the journey. He needed the strength God alone could impart.
The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. I Kings 19:7-8 (NASB)
What journey lies in your future? Is it a journey that has your heart overcome with fear? Is it a journey that you began, but then ran away because of exhaustion or discouragement? Have you stepped away from the will of God or outside the will of God because you were afraid? What giant or what Jezebel has you doubting God’s strength?
God was working to bring Elijah into the center of His will? Where is the center of God’s will for you? It might be in some distant land, or in the midst of a particular set of circumstances, or it may be right where you are. The center of God’s will for you will always be the place of His presence.
When your heart comes to a place of repentance and rest, of quietness and
trust, there amidst the noise of your circumstances, you will hear from God. There, God will probe you just as He did Elijah.
Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” I Kings 19:9 (NASB)
Are you where God wants you to be, or are you, like Elijah, in some place of your own choosing?
When God brings you into His presence He will cause you to examine your priorities in light of His call upon Your life. Why are you here Elijah? Why have I brought you to this place? Have I brought you here to hide or to hear from Me?
What do you suppose God is doing in your life? Some of you honestly have no idea. All you can hear in your mind is the noise of your circumstances. You’ve heard from your circumstances. Now you need to hear from God.
He said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking 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. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:10-13 (NASB)
When God spoke in that gentle whisper—that still small voice—look at what He said. It was that same question–a question only God could answer. Why are you here? Why has God brought you to this place? For what purpose have you come to the kingdom? Does God have a word for you? Does He have a mission for your life?
Whatever journey lies in your future—whatever God’s plan—you must remember the journey is too great for you. You need His strength. You need His gentle whisper to carry you from the wilderness of your discouragement back to the resting place of His presence.
Photo by Maksym Zakharyak