"He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. `I have had enough, Lord,' he said. `Take my life...'" (1 Kings 19:4 NIV).
This is a remarkable chapter in the Bible. We think of Elijah as a rugged individualist and the strong prophet of the Lord. Now here we have the eminent Elijah sinking from triumph to despair! We find that he is subject to the human emotions we all feel at times. Who of us has not said, "I have had enough of this!" But God doesn't answer this prayer; instead, He sends an angel, not once but twice, to Elijah to feed him. When Elijah is strong again, he travels on to Mt. Horeb--and then he hides in a cave! How human!
God isn't going to let him get away with that, either. "What are you doing here, Elijah, so far away from your duties? What are you doing here, Elijah, you of all My people who should have remained at your post? My past compassions to you should have strengthened and served you especially for a time such as this." God understands when we cry out in exhaustion and heartache and despair. The strain of Mount Carmel, Jezebel's threat to kill him, and utter fatigue, simply overwhelmed Elijah. Elijah's heart withered at the thought that he had failed, so he headed for a cave, and God loved him still. Just as God brought Elijah out of the cave of his anguish, so God will bring us out of the darkness of our personal cave into His light once again (Psalm 18:28). Elijah thought his labor was useless; that it had come to nothing. Those with the highest and holiest purposes are often the very ones who experience such intense dejection and rejection.
A saint left this thought with us: "So, in the Lord's ministry, the nucleus of the Church was not found in the applauding multitudes on Olivet, but in the few faithful ones in the garden of Gethsemane." Sometimes we have to enter the cave for the contrast of light and darkness, and then come out for an even better perspective and service for our Lord.
One of the lessons I learned from this wonderful chapter is that God is very concerned about our physical welfare. He sent an angel to refresh Elijah with food and sleep, and God sends us an angel to refresh us. After our son's death I lost my appetite for a while, which is normal. When I read this particular chapter, I realized that God is telling us that He wants us to keep up our strength for He has special plans for us. Indeed, in the loving friends who come with physical and spiritual sustenance for us, God is sending His angels!
O Father, thank You for the angels You send every day to minister to us. And may we, as our hearts and bodies heal, become angels in our turn to minister to others in their needs.