This is the time that many of us spend time reflecting on the past year while making plans for the year that is upcoming. I am no exception. And as I contemplate the many ups and downs of 2016, and pray that 2017 brings love and blessings, I realize how very much I have regretted the downs, glorified the ups, and wished for more blessings.
I think the prophet Elijah is my favorite Biblical character. He is so extraordinary yet so ordinary; so amazing and yet so real; so perfect and yet so flawed. In I Kings 17 we find Elijah was fed supernaturally by ravens. Then during the drought that he had predicted as punishment for the king and the nation, he lived with widow woman and her son as the Lord supernaturally kept them supplied with food and water. When the widow’s son died, Elijah revived him.
In I Kings 18 we read the account of Elijah’s confronting of the 450 prophets of Baal. In one day he called down fire from heaven, humiliated the prophets and the king, and proved that God is the one true God. Afterwards, he predicted that it would begin to rain and even outran the king’s chariots to get back to town. When the queen found out what he had done, she threatened to kill him, and he ran away.
So in I Kings 19, one might expect to find Elijah riding high on his victories and successes! I mean, Elijah should be featured in parades and starring in a major Hollywood film based on his personal life events. But no....in chapter 18 we find Elijah first sleeping under a broom tree and then hiding in a cave, afraid for his life. He was definitely depressed and potentially suicidal. What? It is hard to imagine what would have brought him to the depths of despair like this.
Well, it would be hard for me to imagine if I hadn’t lived out a similar experience this year. The first two-thirds of the year was wonderful. God was moving in and through me and my family. Life was good and life was easy. Struggles were there, but they were incidental and easy to overcome.
And then a series of obstacles and failures came in rapid succession. Professional curveballs, mommy-fails, personal weaknesses, and devastating loss...one by one these struggles began to drive me into the wilderness until I found myself hiding in a cave. And I confess to you that I am tired. I feel as if I could sleep under a broom tree for a few decades.
Back to Elijah: as I said before, I love how perfectly imperfect this mega-man was! The Lord allowed him time to wallow a bit. He gave him rest and susentance, and then in His grace and mercy He spoke to Elijah in a small voice and told it was time to pick himself up and get back to work. Is there a message here for me?
As I write this I am in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where a few short weeks ago a wildfire ravished the Smoky Mountains. My family and I went for a drive through the Smoky Mountain National Park and witnessed some of the devastation. My husband asked my kids if they knew why forest fires were actually good for the forest. Three voices chimed in with the answer. The forests get so dense with vegetation that they need to be “cleaned up” so that sunlight can penetrate to the forest floor. In addition, the ashes of the burned up matter provide nourishment for the healthy trees that remain, and allow for new, luscious plant growth.
As my children shared their knowledge, (and a bit of mommy-pride welled up in me) the Lord spoke to me. While it has been uncomfortable, the last couple of months of this year have served to burn away some of what has been keeping me from the growth that the Lord has for me. It has not been enjoyable, but it has been necessary. And now it’s time to pick myself back up and get back to work. If Elijah can do it with the Lord’s help, then so can I!