Right after an amazing display from God himself, Elijah is in a crisis. In 1 Kings chapter 18, God proved himself to be the only true God against Baal. Not only did God of Elijah merely show up, it was pure mockery of an absent Baal. Elijah leads the way with faith. After watching the poor prophets take up half of the day crying out to Baal, Elijah prepares his altar with three times as much water around the alter. And in a matter of moments upon praying to God, the entire altar is set ablaze and even all of the water is dried up! Talk about an amazing sight! Then Elijah, guided by God’s power and command slaughtered the prophets of Baal.
The contrasts between 1 Kings 18 and 1 Kings 19 are sharp and startling. Earlier, Elijah is bold and courageous, victoriously facing all kinds of odds with the chapter concluding, “the hand of the Lord was on Elijah.” Elijah experienced God’s supernatural strength to do the extraordinary. But in chapter 19, we find Elijah fearful, running scared, exhausted, depressed, and wanting to die.
In the section before us we see the cause of the change in Elijah. King Ahab tells the notorious Jezebel what Elijah had done. She reacts with vengeance and threatens Elijah’s life. Elijah runs for his life down to Beersheba in the desert in the southern most part of Judah. Leaving his servant, he continues another day’s journey further into the desert, crawls under a scrubby tree and, in deep depression, asks God to let him die.
It is in this state of spiritual depression that we find Elijah. Elijah’s depression is the result of a “perfect storm”—the convergence of several common causes. The first factor is what we might call unrealistic expectations. Re-read 19:4 – “I’ve had enough” means “That’s the last straw—I can’t take any more.” It is easy to get in trouble by letting legitimate spiritual desires turn into expectations that go beyond what God actually promises. This happens most often by expecting that key people in our lives will make good decisions about God. Of course we desire that they do this, and we pray to this end. But God has never promised that our desires or prayers (or even God himself) will overturn people’s free will. I have been devastated by expecting family members to turn to Christ—only to suddenly harden again and back away. I have counseled Christian friends about their wrong attitudes, watched my counsel sink in—only to see them revert back to the same wrong attitude. When things like this happen, they are bound to make us sad because we care about them. But when we base our emotional security on people’s choices rather than God’s faithfulness, the result is serious depression.
It is at this very time when Elijah most needed his support most, that he left himself totally isolated (juniper tree; cave). But it is here where he meets God again. He is waiting to hear from God in BIG ways….(let’s read):
1 Kings 19:11-13 (HCSB) “11 Then He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.”At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs 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. 12 After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
James 1:19 (NASB) “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak…”
After a very eventful season of life where God showed Himself in big ways, Elijah just needed to rest and hear God in a small still voice, in a gentle whisper. This ties into the series of self-care. Especially as Christians, we must rest. We must be able to hear God in all of our business and busyness. We must take time to truly meditate and listen to God’s voice. If we are on top of the world or if we are depressed. If we are stress and busy or bored and feel meaningless. In all situations, we need to build on our strong foundation and cornerstone, which is our relationship with God. He is our strong tower.