Enduring The Shadowed Season

Jeff emotions

I love to do biographical studies of the people we find on the pages of our Bibles. There is something about intentionally focusing on an entire life of someone whom God chose to memorialize in His Word. Elijah, that grizzled Old Testament prophet, has been a regular source of encouragement for me over the last twenty-five years.  Elijah is presented to us as a powerful, faith-filled and bold prophet of the Almighty. He stood in the face of wicked rulers. He called for a showdown that pitted himself against over 800 false prophets. He resoundingly won that contest on top of Mount Carmel. Yet, he was also one of several of God’s servants seen in the Bible who, at a personal low-point, wanted their lives to end.  Plastered on the pages of Scripture is the undeniable reality that this sometimes-strong believer was susceptible to emotionally bottoming out. Elijah was a man of God who experienced the dark, suffocating cloud of depression.

Interestingly, Elijah powerfully endured the dry and scarce season at the Brook Cherith and the humbling anonymity of Zarephath (1 Kings 17 & 18), where God put his ministry on pause and removed Elijah from the place of purpose and power.  Elijah endured those times and was used of God in less dramatic ways than some of his previously more notable moments as the prophet in Israel.  Elijah grew from the difficulties, endured the unknowns and obeyed the voice of God when God did reveal specifics to him.  Eventually, he emerged from those suffocating circumstances with his faith intact and his commitment to God unwavering. But when dramatic victory found Elijah at Mount Carmel, when the fire fell from Heaven and vindicated Elijah’s life and ministry, when he triumphantly thundered in the face of God’s enemies,  when nobody could deny that he was righteous and the chosen spokesman for God … he immediately afterward entered into a spiritual depression which he simply could not shake. The victory took him to a high place in life and ministry which left him tired, spiritually-spent and worrying that he had not performed to a level that compared well with others who went before him (1 Kings 19:4).  Elijah had somehow been infected with the syndrome where he was comparing himself to others or, perhaps, to unreasonable expectations of himself.  He emotionally plummeted downward with a thud.  It would take a personal and deliberate work of confrontational grace to strengthen Elijah.  God did not leave him in his weakened state.  The Creator proved Himself, yet again, to be the Helper (1 Kings 19:4-21).  God’s great work was to persist until He rescued Elijah from Elijah.

Grace is the only thing which prevents this same thing from dominating your life. God has granted you an unspeakable identity in Jesus Christ.  In Jesus Christ, you are complete (Colossians 2:10), accepted (Ephesians 1:6), righteous (Romans 3:22) and beloved (Romans 1:7).  Despite the pressures of our culture and the superficiality in much of Christianity in America, you are not in competition with anyone.  Yours is not a performance-oriented standing before God. Yours is a gloriously settled standing through the life of Christ. You may not only discover from day to day that you are not THE BEST, you will likely discover that you are often not even at YOUR BEST.  God loves you no less. He does not amp up His acceptance of you when your life is free, fruitful and flowing. He does not diminish His commitment to you when you grumble, stumble and tumble. His commitment is to Himself and He is working to perfect that which concerns you (Psalm 138:8). You are His long-term project of love.

Leave off today from trying to out-Christian others in your life.  Cease from frantically checking off your personal list of Thou Shalt’s.  Live the way God has designed His twice-born children to live: free, fearless, expectant, hungry and at peace because of confidence in who Jesus is and what He has accomplished.

Your Savior has cleared the pathway.  He knows the direction.  He has been there before, so He is precisely, acutely aware of the place to which He leads you.  Honor Him by trusting Him today because that is where the bulk of His plan currently resides for you.