Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Four steps out of discouragement

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Kings 19:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "…and after the fire a still small voice. So it was when Elijah heard it that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" 1 Kings 19:12-13

I love this tender story of how God dealt with the über-discouraged Elijah.

He had just experienced his finest hour—defeated the Baal prophets in a power showdown and prayed down rain after a three-year drought. I wonder what he fantasized would happen next. He probably saw the people turning to God en masse. Perhaps he imagined Ahab getting rid of Queen Jezebel. Whatever he expected, none of it came about. Instead, one threat from the vicious queen had him running again, and for his life.

His complete and utter discouragement is clear: "And he prayed that he might die" (vs. 4). How God picked him up from depression to continued usefulness can be instructive for us when we're dealing with ourselves or others during down times.

1. Elijah was physically exhausted. He set out on the road to recovery by sleeping and eating (verses 5-7).

Exhaustion and physical illness, weakness or hunger are fertilizers to depression and discouragement. Rest, nourishment and health can do wonders for our attitude.

2. Elijah sought out a sacred place—Mount Horeb (also called Mount Sinai and the "mountain of God" - verse 8). That was the place where God had met face-to-face with Moses numerous times.

When life no longer seem worth living, it's well worth our time to seek God. The place we go to may or may not be a significant physical location. But intentionally seeking God and getting still before Him is vital to our recovery.

3. Elijah and God had it out. Elijah listened while God spoke. Then he poured out his frustration and named his fears. God's reply was no scold or rant of unmet expectations. Instead, He talked to Elijah gently, reassuring him he wasn't the only prophet left. And God still had work for him to do (verses 9-18).

Sometimes I think we avoid baring our hearts to God because we think He will respond to us like a disapproving parent or disappointed school teacher. But I have found that God often deals with me a lot more gently than I think I deserve or expect. Time and time again I have found Romans 2:4 ("Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?") to be true in God's dealings with me.

4. Elijah got back to work (verses 19-21). God's new assignment was probably nothing like what he had imagined for himself after the Baal prophet fiasco. But God's confidence in him was enough to get him back on-track.

If you are discouraged, disheartened and ready to give up, put yourself in the hands of the God who dealt so tenderly with Elijah. Face His quiet but probing "What are you doing here?" Talk to Him. Listen to Him. And let Him nurse you back to hope.

PRAYER: Dear God, please forgive me for becoming so easily discouraged. Sometimes that happens because I have been making my own plans and following my own path. Help me to place myself at Your disposal for Your plans. Amen.

MORE:  The stranger

One of my favourite songs about hope is "Hope Like A Stranger" by Bob Bennett. You've got to love the way it starts:

"Hope, like a stranger, came to my door
I was afraid, I was rude
"What are you coming here for?
Have you come to stay
Or are you just passing through?
I've seen your face
But I do not know you."

It's nowhere to be found as a YouTube on the web, though the rest of the lyrics are here. It's from Bob's 2003 re-release Songs from Bright Avenue (my fav of his albums). If you like ballady songs, great guitar playing and thoughtful lyrics you should consider getting it!

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

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