1 Kings 19:1-18
Do you ever feel discouraged? Do you ever feel like living in the Kingdom of God is not as fun as you thought it would be when you signed up? Here you are “pressing on for the goal,” living according to God’s standards, pouring your heart and soul into your spiritual community, and for what? So that your kids can think you are mean? So that you can be misunderstood and falsely accused? So that people in your community can bail on God after all the work that you have done? So that corruption can infect the church so that it doesn’t look any different than the political messes of corporate America? So that day after day you can see the battle lines for the moral character of our nation fall to the enemy? Is that why you are doing this? Perhaps, you have felt that way before.
When you have those thoughts about your circumstances, how do you feel about yourself? How do you feel about God? Perhaps you feel that somehow you are missing the mark and that, because of some kind of hidden sin you must be messing the whole thing up. Perhaps you feel that you just aren’t worthy of the calling and you are ready to give up. Or, perhaps you become angry or disillusioned with God and wonder if He really is all that you were taught that He is supposed to be. In either case, the bottom line is that you feel alone.
The irony is that many times we can feel this way right after we have experienced a great spiritual victory. Right after you have led someone to a relationship with Jesus, or have pulled off a great ministry event, or have poured out your heart in a selfless act of love and have seen the Holy Spirit do His work in someone’s life. Right then, just when you think you should be on a high, BOOM, you get hit with a bout of depression.
This is called the Mt. Carmel Syndrome and we see it happening in the life of Elijah. He had just miraculously and spectacularly defeated the 400 prophets of Baal on top of Mt. Carmel. He had proven, unquestionably, that Yahweh was the one true God and that Baal was an imposter. You would think that this victory would have filled Elijah with confidence that would have empowered him to march right into Queen Jezebel’s throne room and drag her down himself. Instead, at the word of her threat, he hightails it out of town and runs to Mt. Horeb.
It is speculation to guess what was really going on in Elijah’s mind as he huddled in fear in that cave on Mt. Horeb. One thing we do know from the text, however, is that he felt all alone.
Let’s focus in on that word. Alone. Why did he feel that way? He felt alone because he took a huge risk. Elijah stepped way out on the branch of faith when he challenged the prophets of Baal to a duel of skyfire.
That’s how it always is when we step out in faith. Most people (I’m talking about Christians here) are not willing to risk in their spiritual lives. We like to play it safe and go through the familiar “churchy” motions that make us feel warm and fuzzy and…safe. When one person steps out in a bold act of faith, the rest of us freeze in uneasiness, wondering if that person is bold or just plain stupid.
When you are the person who steps out, it’s kind of like standing naked in front of a crowd. It’s vulnerable, it’s awkward, it’s cold, and it’s lonely. Even though it was the right thing to do and God asked you to do it, those raw human emotions are very real and have a great impact on your soul.
So, after the risk is over, the victory is won, and the adrenaline is worn off, what do we do? We run to hide in a cave. Then what happens? Then God comes to us in a gentle whisper and says, “Hey Elijah, come on out here for a minute. What are you doing here, bud? Why are you hiding? What you did for me was courageous. I know you feel alone and afraid right now, but let me show you something. Let me show you the truth. You are not alone. There are 7,000 more like you out there. You are fighting the right battle, and I will always be with you. Now, go out and get yourself a partner (Elisha) and keep fighting the fight.”
Perhaps you need to hear those words today. First of all, don’t feel bad about the post-victory let down. It’s much like post-partum depression. It happens. Stepping out in faith and winning a battle takes its toll on the physiology of our brain chemistry. The adrenaline rush can cause a rebound crash. That’s just a fact. Embrace the down time. Allow yourself a little space to recharge. Secondly, listen to the small, sweet voice of God, and allow yourself to hear the truth. Be strong. Be courageous. You are not alone.