Last night I read a story from an old children’s Bible. It was about Elijah the Prophet running from Jezebel. The pages showed a slightly yellowed image of a winged angel bending over Elijah as he lay weary on hard ground, a meal of bread and water set near and waiting. The story quotes Elijah from I Kings 19 when he says “It is enough! Now, LORD. . .”
Oh how I felt those words in my own soul. My eyes blurred and I struggled to finish the line.
“It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (vs. 4)
There’s a burning ache in my heart that never leaves me. I am grieving.There have been too many losses and disappointments in too little time. Like Elijah, I want to give up, yet at the same time I desperately need God to use me, to make all this loss and struggle have purpose. “Oh God, I can bear all this if it leads to helping others know You. I can take it if I can somehow see You in it.”
That’s been my plea with God for more than two years now. But the light at the end of the tunnel is still dark. Several years ago I put my career on hold to follow God’s call to ministry. Our family has left multiple homes and cashed out 401Ks and given up all security to serve the Lord in full-time ministry. And now my husband’s promising career as a pastor is in the toilet, and he’s applying his vast theological knowledge as a car salesman at the local dealership.
I swallowed hard as the tears spilled. I took a deep breath and continued aloud:
Then as he lay and slept, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” . . . So he ate and drank, and lay down again. (vs. 5-6)
I connect with Elijah’s disoriented exhaustion. Like him, my husband and I have “been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts.” (vs. 10) All we’ve tried to do is serve you, Lord. What is going on? But sometimes God gives us what we need, not what we want. Elijah wanted to die. The struggle was too great. But God did not answer his prayer. Instead He silently saw to Elijah’s needs. Bread, water, rest.
I paused. I saw a shadow of the Holy Eucharist in the faded loaf on that page. I saw the rest, the passage of time, and the watchful care of God reflected in that white-winged image. The story went on to tell of a journey that led to greater ministry. But I only stared at the picture, stuck there with Elijah in that lonely, hard place of exhaustion and frustration and silent ministration.
Slowly I felt peace take root amidst the burning in my heart. I may lay weary on hard ground in my frustration and God’s silence. But my God is bent over me, strengthening me with the bread of His Word and the water of His Spirit, and offering rest “under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Bread, water, rest. It may not be what I want right now, but it must be what I need for the journey ahead.
So I will eat, and drink, and lay my life down again with thanksgiving. There is more yet to come.