Run away or stay and fight?
Elijah’s story is an exciting one. He stands up to the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who kill all of God’s prophets except him because he has run away in fear after declaring God’s judgement that a drought is coming. He is brought food in the desert by ravens, runs away again to a far away town, a widow feeds him and her jar of grain never runs out, then God brings the woman’s son back from the dead. In the nail-biting climax, Elijah goes back to King Ahab and challenges all the false god Baal’s prophet’s to a duel of fire…and the one true God of Elijah wins, hands down. Finally proving that Baal can’t do anything, the Israelites turn back to their God and it rains again.
We are always pleasantly encouraged by how our Good News Group of adults with learning disabilities love to listen to and join in the stories from the old testament. They seem to grasp the drama and the tension, learning the ‘Goodies’ and the ‘Baddies’ names and cheering when God steps in, intervenes and saves his people. We have explored some interesting, flawed and surprisingly ‘normal’ characters and I think we have learned a lot through their flaws and how God used them anyway. We are learning that God can use us, that we are not useless or broken even if society looks down on us and doesn’t realise what we are capable of. We are learning that we have Jesus as our saviour and to follow him means that God WILL use us. We are part of the body of the church that belongs to Jesus Christ and no disability excludes anyone from that.
Elijah’s story has spoken to me about what we do in the most difficult situations in our lives. I have had times when the situation has been so hard and threatening that all I have wanted to do was escape. Each day I have prayed for God to give me the ability to persevere and stick it out for my own spiritual growth and maturity. I have prayed for those who hurt me and for blessings upon those who present themselves as my enemy. I’m sure as Christians we all have been in similar situations. Jesus warned us that in this life we will have trouble. But he came to carry our burdens and rescue us for eternity.
But do you know what? I am a coward. In threatening situations all I want to do is get out. Looking back, I used to feel great shame and disappointment that I had given into fear and run away. But whilst studying Elijah I had a change of mind. See how God was with him when he ran away from Ahab and Jezebel. God didn’t reprimand him and send him right back in there to face the enemy. No, he tended to him, gave him a safe place to rest and renew his strength by the brook. He took care of Elijah’s basic needs by sending the ravens with food each day. When the brook dried up, he sent him to another place of safety and provision. It wasn’t until Elijah was fully restored, built up by the experiences of God’s power and miracles, that he sent him back to do the job of standing up to his enemies.
Take heart, if you are in a place where you are struggling and want to escape. Do ask God to strengthen you each day and he will Often that will be good and get you through. But sometimes it seems that running away, leaving, failing even…is all we have left to do. Know that God, through the saving grace of his son Jesus, is able to restore us and lift us up. I have heard of marriages, families, drug addicts and lives restored by an awesome, amazing, faithful and kind Lord God of all creation. And once restored, we can fight the battles in HIS strength – and see HIS power just like Elijah did.
Amen to that!