Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Elijah went a day's journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death saying: "This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers." He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. 1 Kings 19:4-8
Talk about burnout! Elijah had, up unto this point, given his life as a prophet sent to the Israelites with the sole mission of returning them back to God. He had done mighty works. He had preached repentance. And yet people can be unreasonably stubborn and entirely too difficult to serve, and sometimes they turn on the very people who come to help them. Such was the case for Elijah. He had HAD ENOUGH. He was checked out, running from his home and responsibilities for the sake of his life.
And that’s when he decided to just quit. He basically begged God to let him die alone out there in the desert. Life was overwhelming. People weren’t appreciating him. On the contrary, they were literally trying to kill him. And he was spent. There was no more energy to muster up for God or the people he had been called to serve. Haven’t we all felt this way at one point or another? Haven’t we all felt underappreciated, overwhelmed, undeservingly attacked and hated? I find it interesting that the angel didn’t chastise Elijah for being down in the dumps, for feeling a bit of depression or wallowing in his self-pity. Instead, the angel just reminded him to get up and eat.
This week I was teaching new arrival refugees the phrase, “When it rains, it pours,” because I so happen to be in one of those ‘pouring’ seasons and it was entirely too applicable to my story. At some point for me, the more it pours the funnier it becomes, but there are certainly times when I can look at Elijah and totally get it. Running away from responsibilities and laying down next to a tree sounds pretty good some days.
What is so equally funny and depressing about the phrase, “When it rains, it pours,” is that usually when you’re in a season of downpour, you can almost bet that some more rain is coming. Life just seems to work that way. Those valleys have to stay pretty low to make the small hills of life feel like mountains. Elijah was ready to give up and he didn’t even know that he had forty more days of walking to make it to the mountain! He figured it had rained enough. He felt as though he deserved some rest, until that pesky angel kept waking him up and making him eat. Thank God he obeyed or he may not have made it the extra forty days to the top of the mountain!
The mystery of life is that we don’t really know when the storm is about to hit or how long it will last. In sunny seasons when we feel in control, many of us forget to stay diligent in regards to spiritually eating. We feel on top of the world and we let our prayer time with God slide while our Bible begins to collect dust. We neglect God because whether we are able to admit it or not, we feel that we don’t need Him. We’re doing just fine on our own… until the storm hits. And suddenly we’ve drifted so far from God, we struggle to find our way back to the source of our strength and nourishment. Like Elijah, our lives are bound to turn upside down at some point. Storms are bound to come. We should be eating ahead of time to prepare ourselves for the storm.
Others are already in the storm. Our lives have already turned upside down and, tired of running, we’ve chosen to plop ourselves underneath a tree. We may have even begged God to end it all. But the angel of God is waiting there, reminding us to get up and eat.
Eat the Word of God. Be nourished by His Body and Blood. Be fed by His presence in prayer. Eat. Because you don’t know whether your storm is around the corner, whether it’s almost over or maybe you might even have forty more days of walking to do.
He will nourish us and give us strength for the journey. He will walk with us. And He will feed us along the way. And eventually we’ll make it to that mountain where we will meet God and hear His soft whisper guiding us through the next desert to the next mountain until finally we meet him face to face. And then we can truly rest.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.