No one expected our lives to be so decisively disrupted by a killer virus that has altered most everything – at least for the unforeseen future. Just a month ago, we were looking forward to spring sports, the final stretch of the school year, graduations, trips, etc. Could we have imagined the current state of affairs back then? It’s hard to even acknowledge what is taking place around the world, let alone how this pandemic impacts our schools and us personally.
My mind spins with concerns over friends or family members getting this virus – about whether or not I can find milk, eggs or TP – even about less-significant-but-important-to me things like what to put into Easter baskets for my grandkids. I wonder if things will ever normalize – or is this the new normal we will all have to adjust to?
When things don’t go as expected, when life takes a sharp sudden turn, a discouragement of the soul can set in.
I have been reading about Elijah in I Kings 18-19. He fell into a deep depression when the stunning miracle on Mt. Carmel did not result in the lasting revival he had envisioned. As he asked God to send fire down from heaven to burn up his sacrifice he prayed , “Answer me O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” (18:37) Yet even in light of this miraculous display of Yahweh’s power – “when the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust and licked up the water that was in the trench” – the Israelites and their ungodly leaders still returned to worshipping Baal. Instead of rejoicing over revival, Elijah fled into the wilderness fearing for his life.
Clearly, Elijah’s hopes and dreams for the Israelites, did not go as he had longed for! After a day’s journey into the wilderness, he stopped to rest under a broom tree. There he grew very despondent and prayed, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life…..” He had changed from a zealous prophet exercising great power to a faint-hearted and disillusioned man who wanted to die alone in the wilderness. From joyful anticipation of what the Lord would do to utter hopelessness. He was spent. Tired and discouraged, Elijah gave up HOPE.
If you are like me, you are more prone to feeling discouraged and hopeless when you are tired and discouraged – and the devil knows this. That’s why I love the story of Peter when he walks out on water on Matthew 14 because I am reminded to take my gaze off WHAT disappoints and onto WHO gives life and hope.
Elijah’s story does not end under the broom tree however. Elijah acknowledges his true feelings and pours out his honest thoughts to the LORD, who responds with tenderness and compassion. Instead of rebuke, the LORD provides him with nourishment and tells him to rest.
On days when I feel tired and worn out, I am grateful that I don’t have to pretend to be strong. I don’t have to hide my despair. The LORD already knows how I feel and waits for me to bring my honest self to Him. Frances J. Roberts said this in his classic devotional Come Away My Beloved:
“Bring me your sorrow, and watch for the sunrise of the resurrection. Yes, truly there comes always a resurrection – a morning when hope is reborn and life finds new beginning. Wait for it as tulip bulbs anticipate the spring. The rarest blooms are enhanced by the coldness of winter…Your God is your maker. He is your defender. And He is mighty to save. Yes, He is not only mighty to save from sin, but He is mighty to save from despair, from sorrow, from disappointment, from regret, from remorse, from self-castigation, and form the hot, blinding tears of rebellion against fateful circumstances.”
Good Friday is tomorrow. I can only imagine what deep despair the followers of Jesus felt that day as they watched Him carry his cross up the hill to be crucified. We read in Luke 23: 27 that “there followed Him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Him.” Their hopes had to have been crushed as they watched their Messiah about to be killed. I try to reflect on what it must have been like, after the crucifixion and before the resurrection, for those who claimed Jesus to be their promised deliverer. I bet they felt totally distraught and crushed.
Both the Passover and Easter fall in this week- right when we need a true message of hope. As I read the Passover story in Exodus 12, I see God’s miraculous hand in delivering the Jewish people from desperation. As I reflect on Easter, hallelujah songs of praise replace despairing thoughts. Jesus rose from the grave, ushering light into a dark world and He continues to bring light into darkness today! What joy His followers must have felt when they moved from the despair of Good Friday to the joy of the resurrection. Easter really is an invitation to trust – to be reminded that God always has our good in mind and in Him our hope is restored.
Jesus is “ our sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). We can trust Him.
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18. For we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
By: Ellen Schuknecht
Director of Family Ministries, NAUMS, Inc.