When I first learned that God loves me and wants to be in a relationship with me, I was astounded! This closeness to God is what I have been searching and longing for all my life.
In those first days, weeks, months, even years of my walk with God, I was able to clearly see His love in Jesus the Savior. However, as I have moved along in my walk with God, I find that there are times when I do not have this clear sight of God’s love. Maybe this happens to you too.
Different trials and challenging events, such as: the slights and hurts received from others; disappointment at my own weaknesses and failures; chronic illness, and the weariness of the daily spiritual battle can blur or block out my ability to see God’s love. In times like this, I search for truths to hold onto.
I believe the Spirit has preserved, in the scriptures, various accounts of interactions between God and people. These interactions give us insight into God’s thinking and how he relates to us. One such story that has helped me recently is the story of God and Elijah in 1 Kings 18 and 19.
God in the Low Points
In 1Kings 18 and 19, I read an account of God interacting with love at a low point in the prophet Elijah’s life. Reading this interaction reminded me to look more closely for God’s love in the details of my life.
This story prompts me to change my focus in difficult or challenging times, and make a deliberate effort to see God in times when I have: “messed up;” am hurting, being hurt or failing; in times of frustration and anger; defeat and giving up.
Sadly, I am often late in associating God’s love with these times because I am so focused on the problem or my failure to respond the way I think a believer should. From the story of Elijah, I see that it is exactly in those times of hurt and challenge that God is bringing His love to me.
Elijah and Us
The Bible tells us that this man, Elijah, was just like us. You say, “No, he was a man of God. He was a prophet. He did great deeds of faith.” Yet, when James talks of Elijah, he says Elijah is a person who is like us. Elijah believed in God, like you and me. He prayed fervent prayers, like you and me. He serves God, like you and me. He helped others grow in their faith in God, like you and me. As believers in God and Jesus, we do these very things.
- “Elijah was a person just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth yielded its crops.” James 5:17-18
This is a truth, revealed by God, that Elijah is a person just like you and me. Therefore, we can learn from God’s interaction with Elijah.
Background to the Story
Here is a quick overview of 1 Kings 18-19, but I encourage you to read it.
- The people of God were unfaithful to God.
- God worked through Elijah to call the people back to Him.
- In faith Elijah sets up a contest between God and the Baal worshipers. Both groups prepared a sacrifice to their god. The God who answers their prayers by lighting the sacrifice, is the true God.
- Yahweh, the God of Israel lit the sacrifice with a bolt of fire from the heavens. It burned up the sacrifice, and the altar. (1 Kings 18: 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”)
- Elijah then got down on his knees and prayed for the rain to return, and it did. (1 Kings 18:44-45)
- Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, heard all that happened, and she threatened to kill Elijah.
(1 Kings 19:2: “… by his time tomorrow” Jezebel says she will take Elijah’s life as he did the prophets of Baal).
Elijah’s Response to A Threatening Situation
Upon hearing Jezebel’s threat, Elijah became full of fear and anxiety. After having been partners with God, that very day, in an amazing display of God’s power, and love for the people, one would think Elijah would have trusted God to deal with Jezebel.
In facing the reality of the threat, Elijah gave in to fear and anxiety, and he ran away. Fear clouded Elijah’s thinking and blocked his faith. He turned inward and despaired. In fact, he gave up and wanted to die.
- 1 Kings 19:3-5 describes Elijah’s state: “ Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. . . . 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.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.”
Elijah’s fear blocked out his ability to trust God. He turned inward, withdrew, and wanted to die. His thinking became distorted, believing he was the only faithful one left to take a stand for God.
God’s Loving Response to Elijah
One would think that God would be angry at Elijah’s fear and inability to trust God in this challenge. But, God did not get angry. He did not punish Elijah. God did not make a point of telling Elijah that he was messing up, failing to meet his expectations. Instead, God shows his love in the details of caring for Elijah.
In 1 Kings 19:5-9, we read of God’s compassionate and loving response to Elijah.
- God restores. God provided for Elijah to lay down and rest, and he gave Elijah food to strengthen him (1 Kings 19: 5).
- God comforts and supports. God sent an angel to minister to Elijah. The angel gently touched Elijah and directed him to eat and sleep. (1 Kings 19:5b-7).
- God speaks truth. God lovingly corrected Elijah’s distorted perspective of things. God told Elijah that he was not alone, that God had reserved 7,000 people who have not bowed to Baal. So, Elijah had access to the fellowship of faithful people to encourage and support him. (1 Kings 19:18)
- God has a plan and a purpose. God continued to trust Elijah even when Elijah did not trust Him. God gave Elijah a mission: to anoint a king in Aram and a king in Israel, and then to anoint Elisha to be his predecessor. (1 Kings 19:15-18)
Look for the Details of God’s Love
Elijah’s response has some elements of familiarity. I can see the pattern of his response threaded in some of my responses to trials and challenges. I can slip from faith to fear, or usually from faith to insecurity, and then turn inward and withdraw; but, meditating on this story in 1 Kings 18-19 reveals to me that God is there in the details.
We are like Elijah and God is the same to us as He was to Elijah. From the relationship of God and Elijah I am learning to ask myself these questions during the challenging times.
- How is God restoring and comforting me?
- What angel did God send into my life to help me?
- What truth is God telling me about Himself, or myself?
- What purpose or plan of God’s do I see? How did /will God use me?