She [Jezebel] sent a message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me dead if by this time tomorrow I don’t do the same thing to you that you did to the prophets.” 1 Kings 19:2 GNT
Queen Jezebel’s death threat could not be misunderstood. If I had heard these words while on God’s mission, I might have taken off running too, which is exactly what Elijah did. He ran until he was deep in the desert and collapsed under the first tree that offered shade. Based on his request to God to end it all, I’d say he was depressed and suicidal, but don’t take my word for it. Please read on . . .
“Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, Lord,” he prayed. ‘Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”
You see, Elijah had just come from a pyrotechnics display of God’s power on Mt. Carmel in a showdown between the prophets of Baal and the God of heaven. Even if you aren’t familiar with the story you can probably guess who won. One might expect Elijah to be invigorated and excited after witnessing God’s mighty power. Instead, when he received Queen Jezebel’s death threat, his high quickly evaporated, and he ran for his life.
Now Elijah is sitting exhausted under a juniper tree. He begs God to put him out of his misery, but God does not grant his request. Instead, He sends an angel to prepare a meal for Elijah to eat. Famished, Elijah wolfs down the meal, satisfies his thirst, and falls back to sleep.
The angel returns later and prepares another meal. He awakens Elijah, who eats and drinks. Nourished, Elijah walks forty days and nights, all the way to Mt. Horeb, where he crawls inside a cave and falls asleep.
Up to this point in the story, Elijah’s actions appear to be motivated by fear: he ran, he slept, he hid, he was fed by an angel ~ okay, that part would be a bit out of the ordinary.
I cannot compare my experience with Elijah’s, but I have acted in similar ways when depression has descended upon me like a wet blanket. I have felt myself tumbling into a dark, bottomless pit. Fearful, helpless, I have also asked God to take my life. Like with Elijah, God answered me, but not according to my request.
Had Elijah stopped trusting in God? Where was God during this critical time in his life? Had He left Elijah to fend for himself? God was caring for his basic needs by sending an angel. Now let’s read what happens next:
“Suddenly the Lord spoke to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
“He answered, “Lord God Almighty, I have always served you—you alone. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed all your prophets. I am the only one left—and they are trying to kill me!”
Essentially God said to Elijah, “You mean to tell Me, after all My power you witnessed on Mt. Carmel, you turn and run from a . . . girl?”
Poor Elijah. He was scared out of his wits and feared for his life. Was he no longer believing that God was protecting and providing for him? Apparently not. He even told God that he was the only faithful prophet left. God responded by telling Elijah to go stand in the mouth of the cave. He was about to witness God’s amazing power displayed just for him.
“Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” the Lord said to him. “Then the Lord passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the Lord was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice.”
Again God quietly asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?”
Elijah recounts how he has been working diligently for God, and now he is the only prophet left who serves Him. God instructs Elijah what to do next and then adds, “By the way, Elijah, you are not alone. I have seven thousand people alive in Israel who have remained faithful to me”(1 Kings 19:18, paraphrased).
I love this story. It keeps me on the edge of my seat. God eliminated the enemy with a force of fire power, and yet when He spoke to Elijah at the cave He did so in a still, small voice. I know this voice. I have heard Him speak to my heart, time after time, when I am overwhelmed with sorrow and depression. And when I am tempted to think, I am the only one, He gently reminds me that I am not.
It is unlikely that you have witnessed God’s power displayed in wind, earthquake, or fire, but you have probably heard His voice whispering to you in the night. Maybe you have called out to Him in your suffering, and He has responded gently to your heart. Maybe you have wailed to God, “I want to die! Life is too empty, too painful without my child.” And God responds with calming comfort.
In the quiet, listen.
In the storms, listen.
In your pain and suffering, listen.
God is loving and caring. He will always supply your needs.
“Seek your happiness in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire.” Psalm 37:4 GNT
“Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: ‘Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go’ whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left.” Isaiah 30:21 VOICE
~Bible story found in 1 Kings 19, Good News Translation (GNT)