Updated: Aug 7, 2020
In recent weeks, I have found myself feeling like a car in neutral sitting at a traffic light. The light has turned green, but I don’t seem to be able to move forward because my creative tank feels stagnant. I think we can all acknowledge that recent weeks have felt increasingly difficult amid the pandemic. Add to that, the heaviness of racial tension that has boiled over across the land. Plus, it seems like our country is becoming ever more polarized. All of this has left me feeling at loose ends. There are a multitude of good things happening in the midst of it all, and it is because God is the essence of good. Still, sometimes it is challenging to see what is positive because it is rarely highlighted on social media or in the news.
At the start of quarantine, I was managing home and family pretty well. I made a schedule of schoolwork for my teens that included a daily outline for the structure of their days. My time was filled with hands-on activities and craft projects with my toddler. Making a daily gratitude list for myself reminded me to be thankful for all I have, despite the shut down of the world that I knew. My adrenaline was elevated, my “fight” mode was in high gear, and I felt confident in my ability to navigate whatever came my way.
Then reality began to set in. The news evolved each day, and eventually there came the message that COVID-19 would likely impact us longer than expected. Masks have become the new normal, and hugs have become a thing of the past. Alongside the pandemic is the racial unrest in the country and world. My heart aches for people of color who are denied justice, and are being treated as lesser persons. What began for me as a time of organization and confidence soon turned to weariness, grief, and overwhelming dread.
I am reminded of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings, Chapter 19. By this point in the story, Elijah has seen the Lord do wondrous things. Over and over again, the Lord has given Elijah victories, has demonstrated His faithfulness, and God has proven that He can be trusted. Even still, after a single threat against his life from Jezebel, we see Elijah sitting under a juniper tree feeling alone, filled with despair, and so discouraged that he asked God to take his life.
During hard times I have had feelings of discouragement that make me want to throw in the towel. Being so exhausted from ministry, parenting, work, and everyday life causes me to forget that rest
is essential for my well-being. Then, when the disruption of normalcy caused by the pandemic is thrown in, I find it difficult to be prepared for the work that still lies before me. Like Elijah, I want to sit under a tree and just give up.
God knew that Elijah was tired, and that his basic need for sleep and food was distorting the perception of reality. Instead of pushing Elijah on to the next thing, God allowed him to rest, commanding him to eat well. Once Elijah was refreshed, then God sent him on to the next task.
Just as God knew Elijah's needs, He also knows mine and yours. God knows how each of us is uniquely wired, and what our specific needs are, even before we even ask. God is not a cruel master who drives us at a pace which we cannot maintain. On the contrary, God wants to care well for us, guiding us to care for ourselves in order to do the ministry to which we are called. When we are hurting and weary, God provides rest for us, and comforts us in our discouragement. Matthew 12:20 (CEB) reminds us, "(God) won’t break a bent stalk, and He won’t snuff out a smoldering wick, until He makes justice win." Although it looks dark in this current time, God wins in the end, and we most hold fast to that.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
Elijah’s discouragement and feelings of despair were also rooted in the belief that he was the only one following the One True God. Elijah assumed that everyone was bowing to the false God, Baal. It turned out to be untrue because God eventually revealed to Elijah that there were “seven thousand in Israel-all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18 (NIV). Elijah was not alone after all.
From Elijah’s story, we can learn a few important truths.
*We are all prone to discouragement at times.
*Our perception of reality becomes distorted when we are weary.