I know that some of you have been going through some incredibly difficult times. Like Elijah, you may feel like giving up — that you have no more to give. You may feel like you’ve tried to do the right thing but you just don’t get anywhere. Before you throw in the towel, I want to show you the process that God brought Elijah through to help him regain emotional margin in his life.
Burnout is really a reversible ailment. Elijah was given four prescriptions that have great application to our own lives — if we’re willing to take the medicine.
Prescription #1: Rest (5-8a)
The first prescription may surprise you. Instead of telling him to suck it up and snap out of it, God knew that the most important medicine Elijah needed was rest. God didn’t give him a sermon or shower him with shame. Elijah had collapsed under the tree and fallen asleep in utter exhaustion. Because God loves us, He is with us at all times and knows our every hiding place.
Psalm 139:7-10: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
1 Kings 19:5 says that God then sent an angel to Elijah who said, “Get up and eat.” When he looked around, he found some fresh bread and some bottled water. He ate all the bread and downed the water and went back to sleep. After allowing him to sleep some more, the divine messenger returned and told him to get up again and eat some more food.
Our bodies were designed to need rest. You can either wait until you’re totally maxed out like Elijah was and collapse in total exhaustion, or, you can take the healthier approach and begin to incorporate rest into your life. Don’t be afraid to slow down the pace of your life. Try to set aside time every day for quiet and rest. Nothing revives like the Holy Spirit.
Prescription #2: Rediscover God (8b-13)
When we’re emotionally strung out, it’s easy to think that everyone is against us. When we no longer have emotional margins, even God seems distant. After regaining his strength, verse 8 tells us that Elijah traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Mount Horeb. While this mountain was several hundred miles away, there’s no way it should have taken him 40 days to get there.
This just shows that fear forced Elijah to go through more than he needed to. The same is true for us. When we’re afraid or discouraged, we tend to wander aimlessly and take much longer to get where God wants us to be.
Once he arrived, he went into a cave and spent the night. God then addressed him in verse 9, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God knew why Elijah was there but He wanted him to answer. God is not asking because he needs the information but because he wanted to provoke a response.
After giving an answer that still revealed his shaky emotional state, God decided that Elijah needed to rediscover the Divine and told him to come out of the cave and stand on the mountain because God Himself was about to pass by him. By the way, this is the same mountain on which God appeared to Moses. Since he was still feeling down however, Elijah stayed in the cave. He didn’t have the emotional resilience to stand out in the open and wait for the Almighty to make an appearance. He probably didn’t think there was much chance of that happening anyway.
What cave are you in this morning?
• The cave of offense. Are you mad at God or someone else? Have you withdrawn because you’re secretly angry?
• The cave of despondency. Are you feeling numb and isolated from people and places?
• The cave of comfort. Some of you may be wrapped up in your own comfort and as a result have become insulated from the desires of God and the needs of others.
While Elijah was in his cave, a violent, rushing wind swept across the ridges. It roared through the canyons and over the top of the mountain. Stones and boulders came loose and crashed down upon one another. But the Bible says that God was not in the wind.
Then an eerie earthquake ripped through the entire area causing gigantic rockslides and cracks everywhere. But, God didn’t reveal Himself in the earthquake either. This was followed by a furious fire that consumed everything that was growing on the mountain. But God wasn’t in the fire either.
And then, it happened. When the wind was gone, when the earth stopped trembling, and when the fire died out, there was utter stillness on top of that mountain. The contrast between the noise and the silence was uncanny and unsettling. And, in the intensity of that awesome silence came a whisper — it was the voice of God. This reminds me of Zechariah 4:6: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.”
When Elijah heard the soft voice of God he got out of his cave of self-pity. Verse 13 tells us that he “pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” This shows that he was awe-stricken by the revelation of God’s holy and majestic whisper. The events on the mountain were the catalyst that brought him back into connection with God.
You see, like us, Elijah needed to come out of his cave in order to rediscover God. He needed to learn that God was with him when things were going good and that God was with him when things were tough. God doesn’t always keep us from going through difficult times but He does promise to walk through them with us. I can’t help but think of Psalms 23. READ PSALM 23. Hearing God’s whisper reminded Elijah that God was still in control of all the circumstances.
If we want to rediscover God, it’s important to emotionally downshift. We need to remove some of the noise and clutter from our lives. God is hard to hear when we’re so inundated with other things, especially things of the world. He doesn’t always appear to us with a big display in the sky — He makes himself real by letting us know He’s right there. But, we have to be quiet enough to hear Him.
God’s power was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. His power was in His word, the still, small voice of God. The quiet whisper of God was so holy that Elijah had to cover himself. It was so powerful that it changed his entire focus. Many of us need to rediscover God through the pages of his Holy Word, where He speaks with a powerful, but gentle voice. Read your Bible everyday and listen to God’s voice. It will literally change your life!
Prescription #3: Reassignment (14-18)
Now that Elijah is rested and has rediscovered God, he’s given a third prescription — a reassignment to serve others in verses 15-16: “…Anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu…over Israel and anoint Elisha…to succeed you as prophet.” Do you see the progression here? Before he rediscovered God, Elijah was focused only on himself. Now that he’s back on track spiritually, God gives him an important assignment. It’s as if God was saying, “I’ve got things for you to do. There’s still a place for you.”
God wanted him to make a choice of godly action based on obedience rather than inaction based on his emotions. God knows us better than we know ourselves. That’s why he told Elijah to do something. It’s easier to do your way into feeling, than to feel your way into doing.
He was eager to go and help others because his margin was in the process of being restored. This reassignment was a fresh start for him. But he first had to get out of the cave. God’s whisper had made him twice the man he ever was.
Are you consciously putting the needs of others first? Are you involved in the lives of people to such an extent that you’re able to meet their needs? What about those of you who have been attending FFC for some time now — are you serving here? Are you making a difference by using your God-given abilities and gifts to strengthen this church, the larger body of Christ?
PRAY – mention the Connection Classes
If you want to increase your emotional energy, then take your eyes off yourself and your problems and develop an “others orientation.” You’ll be amazed at how this will fill your tank. Remember, you were never designed to do everything on your own.
I love how verse 18 shatters Elijah’s parameters: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” Elijah felt like he was alone, but he was actually part of a team. There were 6,999 other believers he had forgotten to count when he was sitting in the cave of self-pity. Likewise, you are not alone in your walk. Whatever battles He has for you to stand against, you do it with Brothers and Sisters beside you.
Prescription #4: Relationships (19-21)
After prescribing rest so that we can rediscover God, we then receive a reassignment to serve people. The final prescription has to do with relationships. Elijah was alone and isolated in his despair. Even though he was rested and had rediscovered God, he was still alienated from others. God then provided him with a genuine friend and companion named Elisha. Verse 21 describes Elisha as the personal attendant of Elijah. They ministered side-by-side from that point on, until Elijah was taken up to heaven.
God has designed all of us with an innate need for relationships and to live in community with others. Hebrews 10:25 challenges us to not minimize the importance of meeting together with other Christ-followers on a regular basis: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
There is perhaps no more effective way to relieve emotional pain than to be in contact with another human being who understands what you are going through. Just as God led Elijah to a friend, so too, His desire is for you and I to cultivate some authentic relationships with others. Interestingly, as we take Prescription #3 seriously and work at serving others, we’ll lay the groundwork for some good friendships.
Let me make an observation at this point. Some of you are living with no emotional margins because of some fractured friendships in your life. Broken relationships are a razor across the artery of the spirit. If you’re experiencing some conflict right now in your relationships, do what it takes to make them right. True reconciliation is one of the most powerful of all human interactions. Do you need to forgive someone? Then do it. Do you need to ask for forgiveness? Then do it. Do whatever it takes to restore your relationships.
Pray about Reconcillation
Let me summarize. God reversed Elijah’s emotional burnout by meeting his basic needs. He needed rest and nourishment, so God provided sleep and food. He needed a fresh understanding of who God is, so God revealed Himself by gently whispering to him. He needed a proper perspective of himself — a sense of purpose — so God assigned him a task he could handle. And, finally, Elijah needed some close relationships with others, so God provided a friend for him.
Let’s face it. Most of us are tired. We’re burned out and saturated. We’re running like mad on the treadmill of life or we have just stopped running and we are isolated and depressed. He wants us to reach out to Him so that He can adjust the speed of our lives. I don’t know what that looks like for you. But God does and there is only one way to understand what your God-Speed is… ask Him, you got to talk to Him about it on a daily basis.
I want to close with two questions. The first one is for those of you who have not yet decided to follow Christ. Your question is found in 1 Kings 18:21:
“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
Some of you are just indifferent to Christ. That’s exactly what happened when Elijah gave his invitation. The last part of this verse says this: “But the people said nothing.” My challenge to you is this: Move away from apathy and follow Christ! READ Romans 10:9
The second question is for those of us who are believers and is found in verse 9 and verse 13 of chapter 19. God asks Elijah this question twice and He asks it of you today:
“What are you doing here?” – READ Hebrews 6:18-19
Some of you are on the sidelines. Others of you are in the cave of offense, despondency, or comfort. If you sit in your cave you won’t walk in the Spirit and you will run on empty. My challenge to you is this: Don’t stay where you. Don’t become stagnant. And if you are stuck in an emotional muck and mire, look first to the One who created you and knows you best, loves you best, rest, rediscover, reassignment, and relationship.
- 1 Kings 19
- Psalm 139:7-10
- Zechariah 4:6
- Psalm 23
- Hebrews 10:25
- Hebrews 6:18-19
- Others: Colossians 3:12-13, 1 Corinthians 4:1-4, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 2:4, Hebrews 6:10-11, Romans 15:13, Psalm 43:5, John 8:34-36, Psalm 3:3, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10