Even the strongest Christians sometimes get bogged down in feelings of isolation that make them want to hide out with a gallon of ice cream. Look at the prophet Elijah. Sure, he’s a giant of the faith, but I can almost guarantee if there’d been a Kroger within camel-riding distance of Mount Horeb, he’d have bought a couple cartons of Double Dutch Chocolate for his big pity party.
Honestly, Elijah’s whining has never made much sense to me. He’d just staged a huge God-battle on Mount Carmel—Elijah versus 450 prophets of Baal. And Elijah won. How? Because Elijah’s God, as He proved quite definitively, was (and is) the One True God, while Baal’s just a big fat nothing. In fact, when God commanded Elijah to slaughter all those false prophets, he did. All through God’s great power.
Of course, the massacre of their prophets made Baal-worshiping Ahab and Jezebel mad enough to kill, so Elijah turned tail and ran. A day’s journey into the wilderness, Elijah curled up under a broom bush and told God he’d had enough and wanted to die. Elijah conquered 450 false prophets, but he couldn’t conquer his own feelings. From my safe, cushy chair, I think, “Come on, Elijah, did you already forget how God demolished Baal and his prophets? Do you really think he can’t protect you now?”
Not that I’ve ever had a homicidal royal couple out to get me…
Regardless of my opinion, God dealt gently with His prophet. He even sent an angel to console Elijah with a meal. Angelic comfort food. That’s gotta taste better than ice cream! You might think the heaven-sent meal would’ve reassured Elijah that the idol-whipping God of the universe was right there with him, but Elijah just dragged himself all the way to Mount Horeb and complained some more.
Again, I want to tell Elijah to suck it up. But God simply asked Elijah what he was doing there. Don’t miss how cool that is. God Himself spoke to Elijah! And all Elijah could do was cry about how everyone else was gone and nasty old Jezebel was out to get him. God still didn’t smite Elijah for his bellyaching. Instead, He revealed Himself in the form of a gentle breeze. How did Elijah respond to that? You guessed it. He whined, “I’m all alone and nobody cares. Boo hoo.”
At this point if I were God (good thing I’m not, huh?), I’d probably get a little frustrated and burn Elijah to a crisp like all those offerings on Mount Carmel, yet God reassured Elijah (for the umpteenth time), in this instance by telling his discouraged prophet about the 7,000 faithful ones in Israel—a far cry from the zero Elijah thought were out there. Plus, God told Elijah where to find the helper/replacement He’d picked out especially for him, a man named Elisha.
See? No need for Elijah to break out the Double Dutch Chocolate after all. God had his back.
But what about us? We’re not Baal-defeating prophets (whiny or otherwise). We’ve never heard God speak aloud. As far as we know, He’s never sent a gentle breeze or a food-delivering angel to comfort us. How are we supposed to handle it when feelings of loneliness and rejection creep in?
- See that God is with us. God promised throughout the Bible—to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc., etc., etc.—that He would be with His people. And He is. In the God-battle on Mount Carmel, God was the absolute only reason Elijah trounced the prophets of Baal. (I mean really, does Elijah strike you as the Arnold Schwarzenegger, defeat-the-world type? Um, no.) Later, God was the One who reassured Elijah under the broom bush and on Mount Horeb. If God was with Elijah through so many ups and downs, can’t we count on Him to be with us as well? Of course we can.
- Take our troubles to God. Elijah moaned and groaned to the nth degree, but God didn’t smite him. Why? Because Elijah complained to God, not about Him. Unlike the Hebrews who died in the wilderness after whining about what God did for them—freed them from slavery, fed them manna, gave them a good leader—Elijah went to God with his fears. In fact, Elijah journeyed forty days to Mount Horeb, which many believe is another name for Mount Sinai. Remember Mount Sinai? That’s the Mountain of God, the place where God Himself came down and gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Hmmm…maybe Elijah wasn’t just running away from wicked Jezebel. Maybe he was running to God. Pretty smart, considering the firsthand knowledge Elijah had of God’s power. It turned out to be a good place to run, too, because God answered Elijah there. And you know what? When we run to God, He’ll answer us as well.
- Do what God says. When God told Elijah the way out of his loneliness, Elijah didn’t say, “Uh huh, I hear You,” and go on his not-so-merry way, all the while hoping to meet up with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s before Jezebel killed him off. Nope, Elijah went where God told him to go. And what did he find? Elisha, his helper and the cure to his loneliness.
God gave us a cure to our loneliness as well. In Matthew 18:20, God promised when two or more gather in His name, He’ll meet with us. In Hebrews 10:25, He commanded us not to give up meeting together. In other words, we’re not to skip out on church. How do these verses reveal the antidote to loneliness? First, when we gather with the church, God is with us. Obviously, God’s presence means we’re not alone. Second, when we’re feeling down, God knows we’re likely to isolate ourselves more than ever, which is not good for us. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they need us. God gifted us with the church to help us keep plugging away at the Christian life when the Jezebels of this world try to kill our faith.
Next time loneliness tries to conquer us, let’s think of whiny old Elijah. Let’s remember the ways God has been with us in the past. Let’s tell Him how much we need Him in our current situations, and let’s gather with the church so we can help each other through the rough patches.