Read: I Kings 19:1-9a
Reflect: There is a running joke in my house about how I watch a video. I am that person who will watch the beginning of a movie and then fast forward to the final ten minutes, just to make sure that it doesn’t have a horrific ending where the bad guys win and the good guys are all wiped out. I love satisfying finales. Honestly, if I read I Kings 19:1-9 and thought that was the end to the entire story, I would not read the rest of the book. It’s okay with me if Act One ends on a downward note, but if there is no satisfying Act Two, then I am not interested.
What is at the end of Act One in this portion of I Kings 19? “3 Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Do you hear the agony in Elijah’s voice? Can you picture the despair, the exhaustion, the depression of a man who had previously believed God so much that by his prayers the rains ended, fire came down from heaven, and at the right time, the rain clouds opened up again?
In those victories, Elijah probably thought that God had triumphed over evil and that finally God’s name would be honored again in his country. However, we find in I Kings 19 that Elijah yet again became a fugitive, but this time it was worse than before because the bounty on his head was now placed by the arch villainess, Queen Jezebel. In despair, Elijah transitioned from the man of great faith to the man lying in a fetal position under a broom tree, just wanting to die. The scene at the tree is what I would call the end of Act One in the story of Elijah.
I’m so glad that God entered with Act Two. God did not condemn Elijah’s breakdown; God entered his pain. I know this God. Over ten years ago my family went through a season of reversals that were gut-wrenching. We ended up losing our primary employment, our retirement savings, our home due to our financial reversals, and our church family. It wasn’t due to some huge blunder we had made in the ministry (other than not knowing when to give up), it was just that we live in a very broken world and life sometimes has sorrows that are excruciating. Elijah’s words, ““I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” sounds quite similar to the words that came out of my own mouth during that season. I was terrified, the kind of fear that is relentless, that jolts you awake in the middle of the night with your heart pounding.
I made the same mistake as Elijah in assuming that if you do the right, courageous, and noble thing that everything will turn out as you expect when you expect it. (I told you I like happy endings). Neither Elijah or I were prepared for the fact that God had planned an Act Two in both of our lives. We didn’t see the God that enters our pain and redeems it for good. We could only see our own grief.
Apply: Perhaps right now in your own life story you feel you are at the end of Act One and there is no hope. You are in the fetal position under the broom tree, just wanting the pain to end. If that is your story dear friend, please know in no uncertain terms: God hears your cries, feels your pain, and He is sufficient to bring in Act Two which can totally surpass your imagination, if you only let Him. Take heart, Act Two is just around the corner…..just wait.
I grew up having an Advent Calendar. It was a handmade wall hanging with a green gingham Christmas tree...