Monday, May 8, 2017

Your Struggle, God's Response {a Tale of Hope}

You know how outside elements – hail, debris or small rocks – have bounced off the windshield of your car with no damage a thousand times before? But then, for whatever the reason, perhaps the size of the debris, angle it hits, or speed you’re driving, one tiny pebble pounds into your windshield and starts a spider web of cracks.

Have you also had moments in your life like that? A difficult relationship, a tricky situation, an illness, expectations that blew up in your face… You’ve weathered similar storms before, but this time’s different. This situation, it’s the pebble that started splitting your windshield in wild directions.

You can’t shake it off; you can’t move forward. You’re stuck in a deep valley.

It’s frustrating, because you want to be a person of great faith, like Elijah, an Old Testament prophet. When Israel’s rulers had turned to Baal worship and killed God’s prophets, Elijah walked into this toxic situation and challenged the Baal prophets to a Who’s-God-Will-Supernaturally-Set-Their-Altar-On-Fire Contest. Baal ignored his praying, dancing, cutting themselves prophets. Yet when Elijah prayed, flames consume his sacrifice. Then Elijah prayed for the drought plaguing the land to end – and the sky broke open (I Kings 18). Elijah was certain the One True God would prevail, and he was right.

That confidence, that faith – I want it.

Yet, if you read on we see a different side of Elijah (I Kings 19). Israel's rulers weren't exactly happy about this display of glory. Elijah received a vengeful message that the queen was going to have him killed.

After this big magnificent faith building moment - that confident Elijah - he ran. He ran like Forrest Gump. Then sat down, deep in the wilderness and prayed he might die.

See that last threat – one he’d received before and weathered – it was the rock that flew up and formed the first crack in his windshield.

So what did God do with this man who was fearful, anxious, depressed and wanting to die? Surely God told him what we tell ourselves: Shake it off, be stronger and move forward.

Yet that’s not what God did…

Instead, He had him sleep and eat. Then God gave him a break from the situation and from making decisions; He had Elijah travel forty days to Horeb, the Mountain of God. He gave Elijah the gift of mindless purpose, time to think and process his experience as he walked.

Then once Elijah reached his destination, God finally asked him what’s wrong. Elijah poured out his frustrations and God responded:

“‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (I Kings 19:11-12, NIV) 
God’s voice was in the whisper. And that’s where God revealed to Elijah his next steps.

God didn’t expect Elijah to snap out of it. He didn’t criticize Elijah for his lack of faith, his deep sorrow and depression, his fear and his reaction of running away. Instead, he had him take care of his body, remove himself from the situation, and take time to heal. Then, God reminded Elijah that His voice is heard in the quiet.

Elijah was STILL a man of great faith despite the cracks in his life. You can be strong and feel weak. You can be a woman of faith and go through dark periods. You can still be a healthy person, yet be in the winter season of your life. It’s okay to not be okay.

Sometimes, God calls us to rest.

Stop trying to make decisions. Stop trying to figure out why. Stop with the “What ifs?” Stop the noise.

Just rest.

God uses lots of different ways to heal us. Like Elijah, God healed different parts of his cracks through different ways, taking care of his body, time, and encouragement. For you it might be counseling, friends, inspirational books, doctors/medication…

But, for Elijah - and for us - what tied all the healing together was going back to the source.

Stepping away.

Resting.

And making space for God to speak from the quiet corners of your heart.

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