“What doest thou here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:9
In the initial stages of Elijah’s trek south, the Lord does not give us much of a window into his mind. Like so many events in his life, this one begins abruptly and with little explanation. In short, he receives a threat from Jezebel and hightails it out of the northern valley of Megiddo.
By the time he had stopped running, he was on the other side of the country, though he did make a few stops along the way.
First, when he arrived at the southern city of Beersheba, he got rid of his servant. We don’t know any more about his thoughts until after he had walked alone for an entire day into the desert and sat down under a rough, broom-like tree. There, presumably exhausted, he voiced some of his frustration.
“I’ve been a miserable failure,” he said to God, “just like those who’ve gone before me!”
He then promptly fell asleep until woken up by an angel who gave him water and some kind of remarkable cake. With this nourishment he received strength to walk no less than 40 days, to Mount Horeb, wherever that was.
Again he went to sleep, this time in a cave. And when he woke up, he heard the question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
And then more of his thinking surfaces.
“I have served you faithfully and all for nothing. Not only that, but I am the last prophet, and our enemies are now trying to kill me too.”
At this point, anybody reading the story for the first time should be in some kind of shock.
What in the world had happened to Elijah?
Where was the great man of faith, so strong and bold? What had happened to the one who looked like he would charge the fiery gates of evil with a squirt gun? Never before had he shown such weakness, not at least on the pages of Scripture.
But alas, the truth was bound to come out sooner or later. He too had selfish, sinful passions, and a tendency to be governed by them, like every other human being.
By working back through the scenes of his life we can figure out some of the reasons for his sour attitude. And hopefully, by paying attention and applying what we learn, we can avoid this particular phase of his life.
It appears that Elijah had conjured up some pretty over-sized expectations that set him up for a nasty and painful spiritual fall. Notice a few of them, and how easily we could have come to the same conclusions, if we had been in his sandals.
He obviously thought the Mount Carmel victory would be a definitive spiritual turning point for Israel. He was wrong. He apparently expected the opposition to suddenly melt away. And again he was wrong. He also must have thought his ministry would be appreciated by his countrymen. He was again wrong. And then he panicked, thinking Jezabel would be able to kill him.
But how easy it is to criticize him from our comfortable Bible reading chairs. It seems so clear to us, doesn’t it? He should have known better! He should have used simple logic. How on earth could he possibly doubt God’s protection and provision after the crows, the brook, the widow, the bin and jar, the altar, the firebomb, the tiny cloud, etc. etc. etc…
His depression just doesn’t seem to make sense.
And that’s exactly the point.
Many times depression doesn’t make sense, except to us. Inside our little thinking bubble we can come to many erroneous expectations that seem right. But they aren’t.
We may think life is going to be more pleasant than it turns out to be. But then our job, our health, our mate, our ministry, our friends, our position, one after another come in less than what our private chart predicted.
Then some painful surprise blows into our world, the entire castle of dreams comes crashing down, and our outlook takes a nosedive.
For some reason, and against all Biblical teaching, we let our expectations become unrealistic, and God lets a dose of reality jolt us back into what life often is like on a sin cursed earth.
The unbeliever, who does not know God, or understand His ways, or grasp why anything is like it is, at least has that as an excuse. But we who know the Lord should not fall into this kind of trap.
He has lovingly warned us in the Scriptures that we can expect life to be full of challenges, often very surprising and sometimes unpleasant.
Dear Father, help me walk realistically today. May I face the battles you send by faith, without worrying about tomorrow’s, for which You have not yet offered grace. Amen.