Consider the Apostle Paul, King David, and the Prophet Elijah. You might think such godly men never faced discouragement, but each of them did. There was a time when Paul said he “despaired even of life.” One time David’s men talked of stoning him, and he had to “encourage himself in the Lord.” And there was a time when Elijah had suicidal thoughts. Discouragement attacks us all. You may have found discouragement to confront you infrequently and last a short time. Or you may be one for whom discouragement overshadows you daily.
In this blog we are going to follow the Prophet Elijah. His story is recorded in 1 Kings 17-19, covering 3-4 years of his life. I hope to discover some triggers of discouragement, as well as some helpful weapons to battle it. Elijah’s discouragement certainly wasn’t because he didn’t have enough faith. He participated in a number of God’s miracles during that brief span of time. Here’s a list: 1) He commanded the heavens to stop raining and they did, 2) birds air-delivered his meals both morning and evening, 3) his promise to a widow that her food would keep multiplying for years was fulfilled, 4) he prayed over that widow’s dead son, and he came back to life, 5) he saw God respond with fire from heaven in a very public showdown against hundreds of false prophets, 6) after three years of drought, he promised it would start raining again, and it was a downpour, 7) he was given supernatural strength to outrun the king’s chariot back to Jezreel, a distance of 17-30 miles.
After this public display of God’s power, you might expect that Elijah could face any situation with optimism and confidence in God. But the power brokers in his country were a very wicked king and queen. Instead of falling to their knees and acknowledging God as the true God, Queen Jezebel promised to kill Elijah within 24 hours. What was his response? Scared to death, he ran for his life!
Elijah headed for Mt. Sinai. Along the way, he asked God to take his life, then he fell asleep. What was God’s response to His prophet? Did He bawl him out and tell him to “man up?“ No, He let him sleep and then served him a meal. When Elijah finally arrived at Mt. Sinai, he again told God that his efforts to change his nation had been useless. He felt alone and defeated.
To encourage His man, God spoke quietly to him. God informed him that He still had many followers and then He gave Elijah some important tasks, one of which was to pass on what he knew to Elisha, who would become the next major Prophet of God. What do we learn from this? Someone devised the acrostic H.A.L.T. (hungry, angry or afraid, lonely, tired) to recognize when we are more prone to discouragement. Elijah demonstrated all of them – he was hungry, afraid, felt alone, and was physically exhausted after an extreme emotional high.
We are told to encourage each other. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” We can learn helpful ways to do that, by observing how God encouraged Elijah. 1) God didn’t rebuke him for lack of faith, 2) God prepared him a nice meal, 3) God spoke to him tenderly and quietly, and 4) God didn’t put Elijah out to pasture, but assured him that he was still important to His mission.
Are you feeling like Elijah? Are you contemplating throwing in the towel? Are you overwhelmed and feeling like your efforts make little difference? God has given us His Word, the Bible, to be one source of His encouragement to us. But reading the Bible is not a magic pill we can take to alleviate all our problems. Hebrews 3:13 may mean be suggesting that you need to get some time with a friend who believes in you, who will listen to you, and who will pray for you.
I hope this look at Elijah’s life encourages you to continue to trust the Lord to do His work in you and through you. He’s not done with you yet!