Sometimes I wonder how Elijah got to the point of telling God he wanted to die – the point where he felt he was no better than his fathers. He must have felt helpless. That moment of his life was no doubt an unbelievable contradiction. Here was a man who held a whole nation to ransom, without whose word the rain would not fall, asking God to take his life. It was the point where Jezebel threatened to kill him, and he ran for his life, ending up in the wilderness. It was a point of exhaustion, where he was completely drained and unable to summon inner strength for the journey ahead of him. Hear his words, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”
Right there, as he lay down and probably waited to die, God would set up a table before him and an angel would wake him up to eat. He would rise to eat and drink and fall back to sleep. But an angel would wake him a second time to eat, saying “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.” Elijah would go in the strength of that meal forty days and nights into the presence of God on mount Horeb. He would experience God anew and do more exploits for God in the days ahead. But in that one moment of weakness, all he wanted to do was give up.
There is a lot we could take away from this event and the surrounding circumstances. We could talk about how God knows to replenish his people when they are depleted and don’t even know how to ask to be filled. We could speak about the significance of the natural meals and the spiritual encounters that followed them. We could ponder God’s faithfulness and mercy and his Master plan of which we all are an integral part; and how God will keep us to fulfill the purpose ahead of us. We could even speak about Elijah’s human nature which manifested when he ran in fear from Jezebel, or we could debate that it was in wisdom that he fled.
But the one thing I’d like to zero in on is this: even great men struggle. It must have been a gradual progression of events that led Elijah to the point where he suddenly felt useless and helpless to continue his journey. Elijah the fiery! Elijah the powerful! Elijah who called down fire from heaven and slaughtered 450 prophets of Baal, and raised the dead and prayed down rain; that Elijah was not only on the run from one woman but was now asking to God to take his life.
Pursuing purpose requires inner strength, and it can be a huge drain on the emotions. Let it never come to you as a surprise that you experience low moments. Elijah did, just like every other great man that God used. But let us turn inwards, and seek the supply that comes from the river of life within us. In his days, Elijah’s help had to come from above. In our days, our help comes from within, because God lives within us. And there is an eternal well that springs up into eternal life, from which we must learn to draw with joy, as the joy of the Lord renews our strength. Amen.
1 Kings 19:1-8