You were winning, but then...
It takes just one thing to throw us off.
One thing to make us question everything.
One comment, one critique, one threat.
Even people who seem ‘on point’ have moments when fear and anxiety get the best of them. That’s partly why their stories are told in the Bible: even though the names, technology and details may change, the human experience remains the same. So what happens when all the highs in your life are followed by a low?
The winning streak
If someone was ever having a winning streak, it would be Elijah: one of the most highly sought after prophets in the old testament who was referenced at key points in the new testament. His story picks up around 1 Kings 17 and over the course of two chapters we see some pretty extraordinary things happen in his life. For example:
- He saved a woman from starving by making her last meal last longer (here);
- He then helped heal her son who was dying of illness (here);
- He rebuilt the altar of God in a country that rejected his faith, right in front of 450 members of the opposition (here);
- He helped bring back rain to place that had been dry for 3.5 years (here) and finally;
- He got the god-like strength to outrun a chariot over ~27km+ distance (here)
With all these crazy, miraculous things that take place, we see God is showing off his strength through Elijah. We see a very clear track record of the many ways in which God exceeds human limitations. At this point you would expect Elijah's confidence to be built up and unshakeable. What else could you need?
But here’s the challenge.
When you’re doing amazing things and making progress, you’re likely to get as much opposition as you get support. As they say, to whom much is given much is expected, good and bad. You get resistance from other people, you lose your mojo or something out of your control happens.
For Elijah, it was one of the most powerful and influential women in the country. Queen Jezebel was known for hating and killing prophets, probably because of their different religious values and the threat that a change in the status quo might bring to her kingdom. (Sound familiar? The Bible may have been written thousands of years ago, but some things never change).
....And then you hit the panic button
Jezebel sent him a clear threat:
“May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of [the prophets who were killed in chapter 18].” (v2)
And that was all it took. That was all it took for him to snap, become afraid and Elijah ‘ran for his life’ into the wasteland (v3). He was done, it was all too much, so he said:
“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (v4)
After all the great exploits, the miracle moments, all it took was one comment to throw Elijah off, to the point of being suicidal? I couldn’t understand it, the previous passage told an epic tale of ridiculous success but here was Elijah wanting to end it all because of one message. While it’s easy for us to judge and dismiss this 180 degree change, I wonder:
How often do we let troubling situations or something that someone said stop us in our tracks?
Are we able to recall and rely on all the great moments that remind us that there is a God out there somewhere who cares?
When life goes according to our plan, it’s easy to rush from success to success without resting and truly digesting all that has happened. So, when the inevitably troubling and disturbing times come we risk calling it quits in the moment. We lose sight of the bigger picture, and all the good we’ve experience fades into darkness.
But it doesn’t have to end there.
The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter. - Psalm 30:5
After giving up on the world, Elijah got a visitation from God. There are so many things we could discuss, but let’s focus on two:
First God asks him “What are you doing here, Elijah?” twice (then Elijah explains how he has passionately fought for the cause he is now tired, overwhelmed and the ‘only one left’ who is going through this struggle) and;
God replies: “Go back the way you came [and] anoint Elisha to succeed you as prophet. [I’ve] reserved seven thousand [God followers] in Israel”
Sometimes, the reason why we crack is because we get burned out, tired, overwhelmed. While Elijah’s story was full of success it doesn’t mean it was easy. When we burnout, we can become more vulnerable to new challenges, fears and anxieties. At that point, we need to ask ourselves / God is asking us:
‘Why are you here?’
‘Here’ being the place where we’re just DONE, ready to abandon it all, overwhelmed, drained and feeling like the only person experiencing the struggle.
Even someone so highly esteemed had a breaking point. This tells me that all these feelings and experiences are human nature, they're just part of the journey. They're not permanent, they pass and because of this, they should never make us see our whole lives as empty or worthless.
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. - James 5:17
When we get to this point in life, the only option ‘go back’ to where we left off, once we’ve been renewed and spent time going back to basics seeking God. Elijah slept, ate and travelled for 40 days to speak to God directly. Sometimes we need to rest, recharge and then return to the path that is being paved for us.
When we go back to where we left off, we might find people strategically positioned to help us, like Elisha, Elijah’s soon-to-be protege. We see that we are not alone, or the ‘only ones left’ but there are people out there marching to the same beat. But if you spend most of your time running or hiding a way, you'll never meet them. So go back.
Give yourself time remember the ‘good stuff’ that has happened in the past. Revel in it and use hang onto it throughout more taxing times. Give yourself time to relax. Maybe it’s not as much of a dead-end as you think it is, maybe you just need a break.
Thank you for reading! Please leave a comment in the box below with your thoughts and feedback. Every other week I send out a pick-me-up of inspiration to my inner circle, why not join us here?