Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Come apart with Me, and rest awhile.”
Mark 6: 31
“Place of repair; O blessed place of refuge!
How gladly will I come to meet Him there,
To cease awhile from all the joy of service
To find a deeper joy with Him to share.
Place of repair; O trysting-place most hallowed,
The Lord Himself is just that place to me,
His grace, His strength, His glory and His triumph,
Himself alone my all-sufficiency.”
Today’s Study Text:
“As he (Elijah) lay asleep under the broom or juniper tree, behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ He looked, and behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a bottle of water at his head. And he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came the second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’”
1 Kings 19: 5-7
“Rest For Our Weariness”
“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11: 28
Has there been a time of great weariness when I found my own journey too long?
What has God ever done for me to give me rest when I was weary?
“No soul can have rest until it finds created things are empty. When the soul gives up all for love, so that it can have Him that is all, then it finds true rest.”
Julian of Norwich
“Weariness maketh way for wandering.”
Have you ever found yourself in such a position that you were what some call “bone-tired”? Your bones actually ached because of the intense weariness that permeated your entire body.
There have been several times in my life when, because of over-work or over-extending myself, I’ve hit a wall where I’ve discovered I couldn’t keep going, even if I wanted to. This is exactly where we find Elijah after a time of unbelievable physical exertion combined with the tremendous emotional pressure caused by fear, anxiety, and yes, depression.
First, Elijah was fearful for his life as he faced the threat held over his head by the violent Queen Jezebel. Second, he was having what I’d call an anxiety-attack over the lack of deep religious commitment of the people of Israel. Their lukewarm revival appeared to be short-lived and Elijah was anxious that what he had, at first, seen as a reformation and a turning toward the God of heaven, was only a momentary emotional response to the dramatic out-pouring of heavenly fire witnessed atop Carmel.
Last, but truly not least, for any of us who have had fear and anxiety infiltrate our lives, we may be able to attest to the fact that the continual drip, drip, drip of anxious thoughts and fearful emotions can lead us into a pit of depression -- even despair. And this is where we find Elijah when, after collapsing under a juniper tree, he begged God just to let him die.
Elijah was not the only person to feel he had enough. The stalwart leader Moses told God he couldn’t go on. And Job, after losing everything in his life, also asked God to let him die. Even the Biblical hero, King David, in the Psalms tells God how life doesn’t seem worth living. Maybe, you’ve felt the same way, too. I think if we were totally honest with each other, we have all experienced days when just going to sleep and never awakening might seem like a peaceful way to get out of the trauma caused by our everyday lives.
I’ll be completely truthful, living with life-changing chronic pain that never subsides completely has opened a new window for me into the lives of precious individuals who have suffered long tedious hours under the cloud of anxious and depressive emotions. Up to the time of our car accident, I hadn’t known what it was to be depressed. While we all have days where we may feel “under the weather,” I had never been one to face extended periods of time under a cloud of despair. However, lengthy illness combined with days of uncontrolled pain have led me down a path I’ve never walked before. When confronted with these periods of darkness, I found I couldn’t sleep no matter how hard I tried. Further, I didn’t feel like eating, no matter how delicious something appeared.
Before this time, I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the situation Elijah found himself in -- that’s not the case anymore.
What I find so encouraging though, in the story of Elijah, is the response of our Father in heaven to the emotional and physical strain Elijah found himself in. If you’ve ever been “under a broom tree,” feeling over-wrought because of the tremendous pressure upon your life, whether emotional or physical or even spiritual, then God’s great understanding and gracious kindness toward Elijah should lift your heart heavenward today.
As we find in our study, before God began any kind of verbal discussion with Elijah about his situation, God first sent a messenger, an angel most-likely, to assist Elijah with his immediate needs for three essentials -- food, water and rest. Two times we are told Elijah was given a “cake baked” and a bottle of water, followed by two periods of sleep.
In his terrific book, Wounded Saints, author Fran Sciacca, gives what he calls God’s “prescription for recovery” in Elijah’s case. As Sciacca writes, he begins his book with the story of Elijah because, as he has observed, “many Christians attribute spiritual causes to everything. And the most paralyzing and painful thing that I have discovered in my own life, is to attribute a spiritual cause to something that doesn’t have one. It forces me to spend all of my time and energies looking for an answer which doesn’t exist. Not only is it a huge waste of time, it actually compounds the problem by eroding my diminishing strength even further, as well as creating an imaginary spiritual issue that quickly becomes a weapon Satan can use against me.”
If we take a look at Elijah’s plight, underneath a broom tree, at that particular point his need for food, water and rest certainly outweighed any spiritual crisis he felt he faced. His weariness had at its core the miles he traversed by foot without the necessary food and water to sustain him. God knew this. And so when Elijah, in complete meltdown, asked God to let him die, God instead gave his beloved servant the sustenance he needed to replenish his body as well as time to rest and refresh his weary soul. We can learn a lot from Elijah’s experience.
It is with plenty of restful sleep, a well-balanced diet filled with necessary nutrients and adequate exercise that does not push us to the limits of our physical being, which will prepare us to be in physical, emotional and spiritual harmony and well-being. As author Sciacca summarizes: “Before God addressed Elijah’s problem, He saw to it that the prophet had two good periods of sleep and two meals. God fed Elijah before He fellowshipped with him. He saw to it that Elijah got adequate rest before He gave him revelation. That order of things is more than interesting or coincidental. Our bodily needs, when unmet, can poison our spiritual sensibilities and perceptions. That is exactly what happened to the prophet Elijah.”
However, there is one additional element that we should examine in the life of Elijah and it is a point underscored by Gordon MacDonald in a treasure of a book entitled, Ordering Your Private World.
As the author notes, when fatigue and depression strike our world, we would do well to check the “inner citadel” of our spiritual life by asking ourselves the question, “Am I taking time every day to dig out spiritual food for myself?” As MacDonald wisely notes, if we don’t seek to cultivate such a relationship, “we will never learn to enjoy the eternal and infinite perspective on reality that we were created to have.”
Recently I read a poem which did not contain the name of the author, but I’d like to share these words with you because they accurately describe the situation Elijah found himself in and they may describe the way you, too, feel right now. As Elijah learned, from the time of refreshment, spent with his Father in heaven, a renewed vitality arose within him that drew him into an even closer bond of love with his Lord.
“Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;
Pressed so intensely it seems, beyond strength,
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll.
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.
Pressed into knowing no helper but God;
Pressed into faith for impossible things.
Pressed into living a life in the Lord,
Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured.”
“Take my hand, Precious Lord,
Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light.
Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me home.
When my way grows drear, Precious Lord, linger near
When my life is almost gone.
Hear my cry, hear my call, hold my hand, lest I fall.
Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me home.
When the darkness appears and the night draws near
And the day is past and gone,
At the river I stand,
Guide my feet, hold my hand.
Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me home.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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