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Sunday, July 10, 2011

burn out

One of the more interesting stories in the Bible is the story of Elijah's flight into the desert to die.

I say it is interesting because it is a story many of us can relate to even though it is not a story many of us know.

Most people, at one time or another, have felt like giving up. Not just on their job. On their marriage, their family, their church, their faith, their entire life.

Sometimes they actually do. Others agonize for months or years, feeling depressed and depleted.

There is not always an easy answer. They have already been praying and been prayed over. They believe in Jesus. Yet they are exhausted in their inner spirit and in their body and in their mind and don't have the energy to see things through that have been important to them.

So we look at Elijah and we ask - "How did God deal with his burn out?"

After all, he was a major prophet, a key spiritual leader in Israel. He had just called down fire from heaven and defeated the priests of Baal in public. Obviously he had expended a lot of prayer and energy to get to that point but it was a victory and it was meant to prove to the wavering Israelis that YHWH was the one true God.

Perhaps he felt the fight was over.

But when Jezebel said she'd kill him, and no one stood up to say, "No, Queen Jezebel, you dare not harm this man of God who has done so much for our country," that was it. He snapped. He'd had it. He didn't want to live.

No one had any intention of protecting him even though they knew the Queen was wicked and Elijah righteous.

So he fled into the desert without food or water. With the purpose of going to the mount where Moses had received the Ten Commandments. Not by camel but by foot. A journey that would take more than a month.

He would not live more than three days without water. But Elijah was not interested in living. He was so burned out he wanted to die.

And in the desert wilderness between Egypt and Israel he would have.

But God watched. And he did not yell at Elijah and tell him to grow up, to have some faith, to trust and pray. He made sure he had lots of sleep. He made sure he had water to drink. He made sure he had food to eat. A kind word. A gentle touch. And yet more sleep.

Read the story in First Kings. God makes sure Elijah gets a bit of shade. Rest. An angel makes sure there is food and water and tells Elijah to get even more rest: "The journey is too much for you."

Think of how some people treat others with burn out. Think of how some church people treat other church people. Scolding. Impatience. "Where's your faith???" "Get up and get moving!!!" "God will help you when you help yourself!!!"

Isn't God astonishing? We make him in our own crabby image sometimes and think that is the way he should act with a moaner-groaner like Elijah (who, being a prophet, should know better than to act the way he's acting, right???). Instead, the Lord is kindness himself. Even when Elijah reaches the holy mountain God does not come to him in the fire or earthquake or wind but in . . . a whisper . . .

And tells him he is not alone, he has never been alone in the battles of life. Seven thousand others have never caved in to Baal or lost faith in the true God. The right is prevailing over the wrong even though Elijah is not aware of it.

God gives him more holy work to do. And, when that is done, makes sure he bypasses death altogether and brings him to heaven in a whirlwind.

Quite a reward and a blessing for a burned out believer.

It is time we treated ourselves with God's kindness when we are burned out with life and church and faith. It is time we treated others that way.

Are you worn out? Exhausted mentally, spiritually and physically? Emotionally drained?

Make sure you get plenty of God's good rest for you. Burn out is not the time to push through even harder. It's time to sleep deeply and restore yourself.

It's not the time to fast. It's the time to eat properly. Get fresh food and fresh water into your body. Another way of restoring yourself.

Do we still pray and seek God? Absolutely - Elijah did, even in his suicidal state. But don't be surprised if you are touched by an angel. And make sure you look for God in the small things and listen for him in the whispers.

And rest assured he is sympathetic to your plight and struggles. (Not disappointed in your weakness and exhaustion.)

And rest assured there are others going through the battles of life too, battles similar to yours (or identical!) and God is close to them and cares for them and is seeing to it they not only survive but overcome.

When you are strong enough - and not before - let God (not everyone else) tell you what to put your hands to. Let him give you purpose and focus and a sense of destiny once again. Only let him do it in his way and his time, not yours.

And if he chooses to reward you with a chariot of fire and heaven and more life instead of death - let him do it.

in Christ's name

2 comments:

EMP said...

Amen.

Bill L. said...

I may be "thinking" with my nerve endings at the moment, but this is a bit close to the homestead, this posting; I hear the flutter of ripping air as this substance flies by me.
Thank You Father! I would rather hear difficult truth and have opportunity to enter life's struggle to make it tangible in my history with our King than to miss the call to share a reality far more substantial and vibrant than our visible circumstances.

Bill