“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.1 Kings 19:3-9 NIV
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
There’s a meme circulating online right now that I feel like we’re all feeling:
I take great comfort from the story of Elijah. Elijah is a prophet who, in the chapters preceding this passage, taunts the prophets of Baal, another god worshipped in the region, and calls on God to rain down fire to consume a sacrifice to prove God’s supremacy. Elijah experiences a tremendous victory that demonstrates God’s power and might, but on the heels of this victory, Jezebel threatens Elijah’s life. And Elijah is afraid.
Whatever Jezebel is threatening your life right now—fear, grief, loss, stress, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, confusion—there is rest for your weary soul. Take it. Even one of God’s greatest prophets curled up in a ball and told God he was done.
But God wasn’t done with him. God nurtured and cared for Elijah’s immediate needs. God told Elijah the journey is too much for you, eat something. Drink something. Take a nap. Rest for forty days and nights because I am preparing you for something, and this period of rest is critical.
There are battles we are all fighting right now in some way, shape, or form. Rest. God commands it. The journey is too great to keep striving so hard without it, and you’re going to need the energy for whatever God has in store for you next.
Points of Reflection
- Identify the “Jezebel” that is threatening you right now and confess to God your concerns and emotions.
- What simple things comfort you when you are weary? Make space in your busy life to eat something, drink something, and sleep.
For the Kids
- How was Elijah feeling in today’s story?
- How did God take care of Elijah?
- Sometimes when we are upset or angry or tired, all we really need is a little snack and some water, maybe a nap, to feel better. What’s your favorite snack?
All I want you to do this week is let God tend to your body and your soul. I am almost certain that you have been too busy, saying yes to all the things and no to not enough things. Carve out fifteen minutes, an hour, a morning, or a day and take your weariness and your worry to the Lord. Turn off your social media accounts. Make your favorite hot beverage. Find a quiet place, and rest. If you fall asleep, even better. You must have really needed that! We are a culture of Get Stuff Done. Maybe just don’t this time. Count rest as just as important as productivity.
There are many stories of grief and suffering in Scripture that, like Elijah’s story, show us what is required of us when we’re brought low. From Job’s friends sitting with him for days and nights in silence to Jesus praying prostrate in the garden, the Bible is filled with portraits for us to find what it looks like to lament. The Long Weeping by Jessie Van Eerden is a collection of portrait essays whose title essay riffs on the story of Rizpah. In 2 Samuel 21:8-10, after the slaughter of her sons and grandsons, Rizpah—concubine of Saul—keeps watch over their corpses, shooing away birds and animals night and day. Van Eerden writes a 70-page midrash, or commentary, modernized imagining of Rizpah’s grief. Van Eerden’s collection of essays is beautiful and haunting, and very much in the same spirit as Elijah in today’s verses.
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy direct from the publisher, on Amazon.com or through a local independent bookstore near you.