Under the Broom Tree

What are you doing here?” – 1 Kings 19:9 (NIV)

“I have had enough, LORD,” Elijah whined as he dropped under the broom tree, “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4).

What was it that reduced a powerful man of God to a sniveling wimp cowering in the caves of the Mid-Eastern wilderness? He’d just come off an astounding victory against 850 false prophets in a daylong mountaintop duel, then ran 16 miles, on supernatural strength, preceding the thundercloud that would end a three-and-a-half-year drought.

Why, after such a dazzling display of God’s power, was he ready to throw in the mantle?

An evil queen threatened to kill him.

So why didn’t he trust God to take care of this situation, as he had all the other times?

Because Elijah was human. Because he was discouraged and depressed. The Mount Carmel victory wasn’t a shutout. Queen Jezebel, although she lost all her prophet puppets, still spewed evil from the throne. The source of the nation’s corruption was still alive and threatening.

Discouragement and depression can weaken the strongest—even those who count on God to provide victory against a world of sin. Elijah was in the midst of an effective, powerful ministry when he fled.

Perhaps he thought the Mount Carmel episode would put an end to the depravity that blighted Israel. Perhaps he thought he’d finally “arrived”—and was, by his own words, “better than my ancestors.” Perhaps he forgot that the miracles wrought and the triumphs won were not achieved through his own power. He was but a conduit of El Shaddai.

What he didn’t see was that his ministry wasn’t an end in itself—it was a link in a chain.

God, in His mercy and compassion, was gentle with his overwrought servant. First He sent an angel to nourish Elijah’s worn-out body. Then, after Elijah plodded hundreds of wilderness miles on foot, after 40 days and 40 nights with no food, as he huddled in a dark, damp cave on Mount Horeb, God asked him a simple question: “What are you doing here?”

The omniscient God didn’t ask because He needed an answer. When God asks a question, it’s because He wants to point something out to us.

Elijah had abandoned the ministry field and was in full retreat. Rather than chastise the discouraged prophet, God reminded him that, contrary to what he thought, he was not alone: seven thousand Israelites remained faithful.

“Go back,” God commanded Elijah. Then He gave him a vision for the future: two others would provide political leadership in the next generation, and Elijah would be given an assistant, a prophet-in-training to take over when the time came to pass on the mantle of ministry.

I, too, can get so discouraged at times I want to quit— quit teaching Bible study, quit writing, quit the ministries God has called me to. I don’t see the results I expect for all my efforts, and it seems I’m expending precious time and energy for nothing.

Ministry is a heavy mantle, and God has called us all to be His ministers in one way or another (Matthew 25:35–40; 28:18–20). Times of deep discouragement and despair will come, and our wilderness caves invite us to retreat in self-imposed solitary confinement.

But the One who called us will not leave us there alone. He will nourish us, comfort us, encourage us, and, when we are ready, send us back to the ministry He has called us to.

Thank You, Lord, for the wilderness experiences that remind me that You and You alone are the source of the power I need to serve You. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Kings 19.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

In the Waiting Room

Read and reflect on Psalm 13.

Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD. —Psalm 27:14 NKJV

The phone rang while my husband and I were having supper. It was our youngest son, David.

“I’m on my way to the hospital,” he said. “I broke my arm playing first base.”

My heart sank. After enduring shoulder surgery and months of physical therapy a year and a half earlier, David, a pitcher, had worked hard to get back in form. The coach for his summer league team had been playing him on first and third bases for the games between his starts, planning to use him on the mound for the must-win games.

Nearly three hours later, David called back. The bone just above the wrist on his left arm—not his pitching arm, thank heaven—was broken clear through and was out of place.

“I have to come back to the hospital tomorrow for surgery to put the bone back in place,” he said. “I might need pins.”

After we hung up, I packed my bag for the next day with plenty of reading material, a crossword puzzle book, bottles of water and juice, and fruit. I knew it would be a long day in the hospital waiting room. There was nothing I could do but wait for the outcome — and worry how we’d replace the income from his summer construction job. Now, instead of playing in the big tournament or putting away money for school, he’d be nursing a broken arm, waiting for it to heal in time for fall ball.

More time is spent in life’s waiting rooms, I think, than on the field of play. Like the psalmist, I often cry, “How long, O LORD? How long? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1)

I don’t like being benched in a waiting room, but I’m learning to deal with it. And I’m learning to deal with the disappointment, confusion, frustration, and anger that accompany the waiting. Oh, the emotions aren’t as intense as they once were, but still they pop up, undermining the faith that’s the foundation of my life: “Do you really believe God protects you and those you love? Maybe you didn’t pray enough. Maybe it’s all a lie.”

That’s when I open my Bible and do my faith-strengthening exercises. I like Psalms for low-faith times because the writer plumbs the depths of emotions that we, too, experience. Voicing his anguish and looking for answers that seem too long in coming, he reaches a turning point, where his questions collide head-on with faith: “But I trust in your unfailing love; and my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5–6).

Maybe waiting time isn’t wasting time, after all. For the lessons learned in the waiting room and the work God does in us while we wait are much more valuable than the answer we think we should have. For the harder a thing is to attain, the greater will be the triumph.

When the questions are hard and the answers don’t come, when my faith falters and my beliefs grow brittle, remind me, Lord, the waiting room is where faith grows best. Amen.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay