Do you ever feel defeated? Does that defeat threaten to destroy you, to shut you down? You’re ashamed of yourself for failing, and kind of mad at God because you assess the thing that He asked of you, and it isn’t what you anticipated. You tried to be obedient… You were sure He had said ‘go’. But the end result isn’t something you are proud of and it hasn’t boosted your confidence in Him at all. You just want to quit…
You catch yourself humming that little tune, “ Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m goin’ down the garden to eat worms ….”
You’re not alone. Great men and women have battled this ‘thing’ of defeat and depression for years. But it didn’t prevent them from becoming great.
The prophet Elijah, I’m quite certain, feels this way, in 1 Kings 19, when he has done everything God asked him to do and suddenly he finds his life threatened because of that obedience. It would have seemed a fair trade for God to protect him if he lived in obedience and, not only protect him but, adjust circumstances to make him feel that protection. Instead, the Prophet Elijah finds himself fearing for his life at the hands of an evil queen.
In this place of fear and uncertainty, what does Elijah, the great prophet, do? He stands up like a real man and says, “My God will…”
No.. that’s not it… In fact, what he does is entirely cowardly. He runs away from the wicked Queen Jezebel and hides under a juniper tree. And it gets better. He arrives there, panting and tired, terrified to death and then he does the next logical thing. He cries out to God and asks Him to take his life.
I’m thinking, “Seriously? You want God to kill you? A mercy killing so you don’t die…. Buddy… if you had given Queen Jezzy a fighting chance, she’d have done what you’re begging God to do!” It is safe to assume that he is not thinking straight at this point.
When I read this part of the story, I want to take Elijah, sit him down, and have a good ‘mother talk’ with him. Could he not see that God had been there, faithfully providing and protecting him in the years leading up to this moment of danger? Had he forgotten so soon that God fed him, cared for him and kept him safe?
At this point in my little ‘pretend lecture’, I pause and put myself in Elijah’s shoes. Suddenly I see myself, crouching under a juniper tree, sulking because life isn’t what I wish it was.
And just as quickly my mind shifts to another reality. Elijah the prophet was an amazing man of God. Sure, he looks like a bit of a wimp here, but most of us would if we were being pursued by a heartless murderer. The amazing thing is that God still uses Elijah.
And Elijah isn’t alone. I am ‘wowed’ by men like Moses, a man who led a complaining army of God’s people around a mountain for 40 years. And all that before there was duct tape to gag them. He was a patient man! But he was also a man who had a bad temper, so bad, in fact, that he broke all Ten Commandments in a split second.
Let’s not forget to mention Jonah, who ran away so he wouldn’t have to preach to Nineveh because he was sure the people would repent if he warned them and he didn’t want to look like a fool for saying they would be punished. Imagine that!
Or what about King David, an adulterous murderer, who somehow managed to be a man after God’s own heart?
As much as these stories bring out the less noble character of these men, I read them and find courage and hope. God had a purpose and a plan for each of these individuals. What did God see in them? …What does He see in me, for that matter?
It is clearly not our giftedness or our courage that make us great . If it was, these men would have been eliminated long before they became great men. Each of these men lived imperfectly, yet each was used dynamically by God. Why was that?
King David repented quickly when confronted and his connection and communication with God was open and honest. He poured out his anger and hopelessness, but always came full circle to a commitment of trust. Elijah lived in obedience, not without a few ‘moments’, and later went on to mentor Elisha, who became another great prophet. Jonah eventually did what God sent him to do, and then he went and built a little shelter where he could spy on the city as the people repented, and sulk about it. A motivational speaker he was not. One might have thought he would feel like it was a successful speaking engagement but not Jonah. He was so angry he wanted to die. And that is pretty much where the story ends—with God lecturing him about his raunchy attitude and reminding Jonah of His love for the people of Nineveh.
I find courage and hope in these stories, not because these ‘Superheroes’ failed or didn’t fail, but because God still used them. When I think about the bigger picture in these glimpses into history, I see an amazing God who loves us and makes our most pathetic efforts useful. He redeems it all: the good, the bad and the ugly… If we let Him.
With this in mind, I look ahead at some of the things God has asked me to do this year and I find myself fighting the same feelings, the same fears as last time. Will God come through? Will He provide? Will the logistics work out? Will my humanity get in the way?
And then I think of these Superheroes, hiding in strange places, and I remember this limitless God….