Highs and lows.
One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on top of the world.
The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.
As if that isn’t enough the enemy loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…
And too often we believe him.
Elijah understood this. Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshiped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)
The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (1 Kings 18:36-39 ESV)
Elijah experiences a stunning victory.
A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (1 Kings 19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (1 Kings 19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (1 Kings 19:4ESV) and then falls asleep.
His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events.
But just when we think God isn’t there — that He’s abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.
Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes Elijah up, and gives him this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water.” And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:5-8 ESV).
If you’re in a pit it just might be that you need real food and sleep.
Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper” reassuring him of his presence, power and provision. “And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”
Author Richard Exley wrote,
“God began the restoration process by giving Elijah a spiritual experience based on intimacy rather than power, a gentle whisper rather than a roaring wind. Why? Because power is seldom what we need when we have come to the end of ourselves. At those times, we need relationship—a gentle whisper assuring us of our value.”1
God knows your name. He is all powerful but also intensely personal. He is speaking to you. Chances are it’s just beneath the clutter and commotion, a low whisper. In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.
Tim Clinton, Ed. D., LPC, LMFT (The College of William and Mary) is President of the nearly 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), the largest and most diverse Christian counseling association in the world. He is Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care, and Executive Director of the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University. Licensed in Virginia as both a Professional Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist, Tim now spends a majority of his time working with Christian leaders and professional athletes. He is recognized as a world leader in faith and mental health issues and has authored over 20 books including Breakthrough: When to Give In, When to Push Back. Most importantly, Tim has been married 36 years to his wife Julie and together they have two children, Megan, who is married to Ben Allison and is practicing medicine in dermatology, and Zach, who plays baseball at Liberty University. In his free time, you’ll find him outdoors or at a game with family and friends.