What an amazing change had taken place in Elijah within the space of a couple of days. In the previous chapter he had just presided over the defeat of the 600 prophets of Baal. God had demonstrated His mighty power by burning up the water-saturated offering, immediately after Elijah had prayed. The comparison with the powerless efforts of the frenzied priests of Baal was a stark reminder to Israel that they needed to turn back to the only true God. The false prophets were killed and then God brought rain after years of drought. Finally, Elijah ran ahead of King Ahab’s chariot, empowered by the Spirit of God. What an amazing 24 hours!
But now, after receiving a threatening letter from Queen Jezebel, Elijah runs for the hills and wishes he were dead. What on earth’s going on? Lack of faith? No, Elijah is physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. He is experiencing ‘burn-out’. Many of us have been there, or we’re there right now. It’s especially true for those involved in Christian ministry – they’re not superhuman!
The outworking of burn-out is clearly demonstrated in Elijah’s reactions. His focus is off God and is on the presenting situation. Things are blown up, out of proportion. He feels he can’t cope. It’s all too much, and he just wants to get away physically, and perhaps even permanently (‘take my life Lord’). There are intense feelings of isolation and loneliness (1 Kings 19: 10, & 14).
God’s response is very interesting. He doesn’t berate Elijah for lack of faith, or give him a stern talking to, or even try to get him to discuss his feelings. He lets him sleep (as he’s exhausted), ensures he’s provided with food and water, and encourages him to eat (1 Kings 19:5). He then allowed Elijah to travel a long way (a journey of forty days). In all this time there wasn’t a single word of rebuke from God. Finally, Elijah sleeps in a cave and God speaks to him gently but firmly 1 Kings 19:10). He draws Elijah back to Himself, and re-commissions him (1 Kings 19:15-18), and gently reveals He has seven thousand other faithful followers. So Elijah was not alone after all.
The message for those of you feeling like Elijah did is that God knows and He cares. He wants to restore you, but you need to rest, and ensure you eat and drink to get back your strength. In the fullness of time God will restore your passion. Don’t berate yourself, or let the enemy belittle you. God doesn’t. He cares for you and He will see you through,
Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to admit to You that there are times I feel exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have tried to carry on in my own strength for too long, and I need to rest. Thank You that You still love me, and don’t look down on me. I trust that you will restore me, and my passion for You. Amen.
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