What Are You Doing Here, Elijah?
It’s been an incredibly busy 2 weeks since I posted last. I was going to write more about Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton right away, but God seemed to have other plans. I wanted to share about Elijah’s life, but I was coming at it from the incredibly spiritual high he had just had by seeing God’s power displayed miraculously with the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18) I couldn’t quite understand how going from that incredible experience Elijah decided to throw himself a huge pity-party and in that state of mind begged God to end his life because he was all alone. Didn’t he have the memories of God’s miraculous acts of starting fire on a water-doused altar to encourage him?
Then God had a talk with me. He reminded me of the spiritual highs, the closeness I’ve enjoyed with Him on many occasions (some even while writing for God’s Abundant Blessings). There are days I get into the mentality of “poor me”. “No one really cares about me.” “Everyone else has their own little groups.” Maybe you know the script. I hope not, because it isn’t an uplifting one. Anyway, I was in this blue funk about a month ago, and when reminded of the Elijah story, even looked at comparing myself to Elijah. But I didn’t have the incredible mountain-top experience … or did I?
This year my husband has had two heart procedures that have been slowly showing signs of improving his lifestyle, and if nothing else, at least he is still here with me. Last year my mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer – and she is still alive and doing very well today. Through the blessing of new medicine, my rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia that once caused severe pain when I lifted the bed sheets or turned a car key to having a physically active lifestyle and minor discomfort. After two years with no job, God blessed in ways I couldn’t imagine with a seemingly perfect job for me at this stage of my life. When the hospital bills have rolled in, we celebrate God’s faithfulness for good medical insurance. The list goes on and on … I’ve been blessed by God’s presence in my life in wonderful ways this year – both big and small (seeing 5 deer this morning on my foggy walk down by the river).
So why did I find myself about a month ago crying, “Poor me”? I think Satan likes to keep us in the pits of despair so we lose our focus on all that God has blessed us with and we come complaining to God. What parent would rather hear, “I love you Mommy,” than once more hear, “Why?” or the whiny “I don’t want to do that …” I can only imagine what God thinks of me when I start my pity-party once again, instead of praising Him. What He must go through when I whine and complain instead of worship and thank Him for all He has done for me.
In Elijah’s despair, God didn’t leave him alone. He sent an angel to minister to him with food and then sent him to Horeb, the mountain of God. He went into a cave to spend the night. And God appeared to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah goes on to tell all he has done for God and then begins to whine about his troubles. But the all-knowing God knew Elijah needed to understand who God really was. He told Elijah to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Elijah had to take that step of faith and go outside of the cave. When he did, there was a severe wind that split mountains and broke rocks, but God was not in the wind. Then came the earthquake and the fire, but God was not in either of them. Then came a gentle whisper. Elijah heard it, pulled his cloak over his face in respect and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. God wasn’t in the chaos of the wind, earthquake or fire. God wasn’t in all the chaos that surrounded Elijah. When God moved Elijah out of the cave – with his whole self – the good, the bad and the ugly (Barton) – and go out and stand on the mountain and WAIT for the presence of the Lord to pass by. Once again God asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Barton encourages us to ask ourselves, “What are you doing here, Faye [your name]?” in this time in your life? Because it wasn’t until Elijah was most vulnerable and risked exposing himself to whatever God had to show him next, that the Lord’s presence passed by. I’m not sure I’d have been willing to leave the security of the cave after seeing mountains split, rocks break, earthquake and fire. I’m glad Elijah had the faith to step out and WAIT for what God had for him. If he hadn’t taken the risk, he would have missed what God had planned for him.
For several days after my blue-funk, I spent a fair amount of time in solitude and silence (those that know me know that the silence is actually the bigger challenge) with God. When I began to ask myself the question, “What are you doing here, Faye?” I realized I was learning to intentionally refocus on God and allowing Him to fill me more than any one person – anyone else ever can. I’m grateful He took me through those days earlier this month because this weekend we had the blessing and privilege of celebrating 40 years of God’s faithfulness to our little church. From my perspective as a worship leader looking out over the congregation and seeing all the different families that came back, I reflected on God’s abundant blessings in their lives – suicide; miscarriage; loss of a spouse, parent or child; abortion; cancer; heart-disease; chronic illness or pain; job loss; financial struggles; abuse … the list goes on. But through it all, I saw and was blessed by the hearts lifted up toward God in worship. Many of these people have been on the mountain-top and the depths of despair, but they’ve learned to continue to walk with God and see where He is leading them.
These seem to be some disjointed and random thoughts, but just praying and encouraging you to take the time to let God ask you, “What are you doing here, _______?” so that you can give Him an honest answer. And praying that in that next phase, God will bless you with things you can hardly understand, things too great for you to comprehend ~ Faye