What God Gives Us Instead
In 1 Kings 19 we read the story of Elijah’s post-triumph depression. He had just been used by God to show up the priests of Baal, then destroy them, as well as bring an end to a three year long drought. Not surprisingly Jezebel, at whose table these 450 priests regularly ate, was enraged and sought Elijah’s life. From the literal mountain top to the pits in less than 24 hours, Elijah sat under a broom tree and prayed for God to kill him.
The narrative goes on to say that instead of killing him, the Lord granted Elijah some sleep, sent an angel to encourage him, gave him food to eat and water to drink. The Lord then repeated the process: more rest, more nourishment, more strength. And it worked an amazing restoration, at least on his body, because Elijah then had the energy to go 40 days and nights to reach Mt. Horeb. It was there God completed the process with Elijah, dealing gently, but firmly with his perspective and setting him back on his path of ministry.
As I read the account, I was reminded how so often, when we are overwhelmed by trouble, we just want to escape. If Elijah really wanted to die, all he had to do was present himself to Jezebel or any soldier looking for a promotion. What he was really saying was, “I’m so done with all this—done with the privation, sacrifice, alienation, persecution. I’ve had enough. I want out. Now!” A lot of us, in and out of ministry, have been there. I’ve heard plenty of sufferers say, “I just wish God would take me.” Sometimes they are truly longing to go to Him, but more often it is an expression of the desire that the suffering to end. If God were to say to them, as He did to Hezekiah, “I’ll heal you and give you 15 more years,” I’d guess a majority of those ready to have God kill them would be happy to stay alive another 15 years, if they knew they’d be healthy.
But so often, whether it is in circumstances of disappointment or suffering, God doesn’t give us what we ask for, He gives us what we need. It won’t look the same as it did for Elijah or anyone else, it will be tailor-made for us. God correctly diagnoses what is going on in our hearts, our minds, and our situations, and has a custom-fit plan to work out in our lives.
The Lord didn’t coddle Elijah, but boy did He show compassion, caring and kindness. He didn’t say, “I know Jezebel is a big meany, and I’ll take care of her today,” or “You’re right, you’ve had enough. I’ll send that flaming chariot right down.” But He did give Elijah rest, nourishment, encouragement, and strength, along with pointed-but-kind doses of truth, once the time was right.
We can count on God to do something similar for us, because He is our loving Father who knows exactly what we need. He will give us just that, instead of the easy-out we are hoping for. And, in the end, we will find that so much more satisfying, even glorifying than being removed from the trial.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries
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