The God Who Whispers
I once had a good friend tell me, “My life isn’t what I expected at all. It is much more disappointing than I would have imagined. Over the years, I became angry with God for my situation. So, I walked away from Him and from the church.”
My friend dreamt of being a stay-at-home mom. However, she became the long-term, steady provider for her household. She felt cheated and abandoned. Worse yet, after many years at her job, a younger administrator began to verbally abuse her, writing trumped-up, negative evaluations of her performance. As a result, my friend struggled with loneliness and bitterness.
Often, in speaking with Christians and non-Christians, I have heard stories of exhaustion and disillusionment – stories that lead to a distorted perspective on life. What’s more, people often feel confused when they realize that many of their victorious moments with God, or “mountain-top experiences,” take place right next to some of the hardest and most painful experiences of life.
What circumstances in your past have led you to periods of disappointment or disillusionment? What impact did these circumstances have on your relationship with God?
Elijah witnessed a spectacular display of God’s power in the contest on Mount Carmel (see 1 Kings 18:18-39). God proved to the Israelites that He was the Lord of all creation and that Baal was a powerless creation of mankind. The people repented and professed Yahweh as Lord. Such a victory would surely bring about a great final result for Elijah and for the nation of Israel. Or would it?
Life is not as straightforward as we would like for it to be. Elijah forgot the truth of God’s power over Jezebel. Like many of us, he responded to threatening circumstances by running away.
I’ve seen the same reaction in my friends’ lives as well as in my own. It’s easy to see ourselves as victims, and then throw up our hands, despair, and give up. Such a reaction betrays a false belief about God: that He doesn’t care about or isn’t present in the dark times. Yet, even in our worst moments, through our despair and running away, God still ministers to us.
Everyone faces the disappointing sting of failure in some way or another. We do not need to beat ourselves up for our moments of despair, nor deny them. Yet we cannot stay in them forever. In this passage, God ministered to Elijah in his despair for over a month, while Elijah made his way to Mount Horeb (aka Mount Sinai). Yet, as the angel noted, there was more to come. Elijah still had a good purpose to fulfill in this world. The Lord wanted to use Elijah.
Depression can skew how we see truth, and we are extremely vulnerable when under duress and fatigue. I’ve found that it is good to allow myself room for disappointment, but also to not forget to allow God to minister to me. I need to remember what God has done for me: in large ways, such as offering the gift of salvation and giving me hope in Jesus Christ; in small ways, such as caring for and ministering to me daily.
Whether Elijah fled his situation out of fatigue, fear, lack of faith, or disappointment, he still ran. But even in his despair and running, God was still there, ministering in truth and love.
God still works through us even in our deepest agony—even while we suffer—to affect our world for His purposes and Kingdom. Resist the temptation to think that our lives do not really matter! We can be tempted, like Elijah, in exhaustion and pain, to become narrow-minded and blind to God’s mission for mankind, saying, “If these big things didn’t change the hearts of men, then I give up! Nothing will work.” Yet, God has shown us through the obedient suffering of Jesus Christ and His redeeming resurrection that there is hope, no matter how grim our current situation.
What are some ways God has worked through you in difficult times of pain to minister to others? What are some ways God has worked through others in difficult times of pain to minister to you?
Our work in the kingdom matters beyond just the big moments. And our purpose extends beyond just our lives. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, God’s messenger who, like Elijah, faced opposition and persecution, we know that all our labor for the Lord matters. It will endure into eternity. God’s Word will not return void but will accomplish its purpose. Trusting in the God who whispers to us in our times of greatest need, we set our hearts forward and follow Jesus – our King of sacrifice and joy.
Excerpted from Mary Jo Sharp, The Gospel Project: God the Revealer © 2016 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.