The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3 (NRSV)
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”- 1 Kings 19:1-10 (NRSV)
At the beginning of 1 Kings, Elijah had just been through an ordeal with Ahab, the evil king, Jezebel, his evil queen, and the prophets of Baal. God had used Elijah for a mighty work, and at that point Elijah was quite worn out. He feared for his life. He was tired of running. Elijah had come to the end of his own strength, which was why he was so stressed out, depleted, and desperate that he asked to die.
There are times when we can identify with Elijah in this text. We come to the end of our strength. We are at points when we have done all we can do and the hits just keep coming. We may fear for our lives or for our livelihood, or for those of our family. We cry out to God in desperation for relief, for an end to our weariness and suffering. God doesn’t just leave us hanging. He provides for us and restores us.
When we are stressed or frustrated, suffering, or depleted, God says to us, “Take a break. Get some rest. Have a bite to eat. Let Me restore you and give you what you need to carry on.”
There are times, like Elijah, where we feel as if we are the only ones who are trying to do the right things and to live as Jesus followers. There are times when it seems as if life is one crisis and one meltdown after another. It is in these times God reminds us through His Word, and through other believers that we are not alone.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NRSV)
There is a great cloud of witnesses around us- both living here on this earth, and those who have gone to the heavenly kingdom before us. Every believer eventually comes to the end of him or herself, and to the point of knowing it is Christ or nothing. In Him we have light, hope and peace. God does give us rest and He restores us. Better yet, we aren’t in this alone.