“[Elijah] came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’ And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.’ And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him’” [1 KINGS 19:9-18]. 
Have you ever hit the wall? I mean, have you ever reached the point that you questioned who you were, what you were doing or whether God even knew whether you existed? I am certain that all of us have been there. In fact, some of us may be there now. We have all passed through times when we whinged and whined, pouted and postured—we were doing what we were certain God had appointed us to do, and things got uncomfortable. I don’t mean that we were uneasy; rather, we felt threatened, believed our life and our future was in jeopardy. At that time, we were certain that nothing remained except for us to flee from the perceived danger as fast as we could run. We wanted to “get out of Dodge!”
Think about that. One moment you are a mighty lion, the next you are a timid mouse. For those honest enough to admit that this is not foreign territory, please know there is nothing wrong with you—you are normal. No one of us is immune to such disquieting experiences. In his second letter to the saints in Corinth, Paul writes of his personal experience at one dark point in his ministry. The Apostle writes, “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many [2 CORINTHIANS 1:8-11].
If the Apostle to the Gentiles, the one who wrote over one-half of our New Testament, could reach a point where he despaired even for his life, why should we imagine that we will be immune to such pressure? Paul was sent by God on his mission; he knew that what he was doing was by God’s appointment. And yet, Paul reached the point of utter despair! He was ready to give up! None of the missionaries had any strength left; they could no longer cope! Not only Paul, but the entire band were ready to give up. Pressure will do that. We are driven to fear and our fear is contagious, infecting everyone near us. This is a deadly place for any of us to be.
There is a truth here that we need to seize and hold before we move on in the message: God often allows us to experience our trials to drive us into His arms. Let me rephrase that: Sometimes, it takes a mess to move us to God. When we are in despair, we have nowhere to turn. At such times, we who identify as followers of the Christ will be driven to Him because we have nowhere else to turn. When we were in the world, we might have lost all hope, cursed our situation and perhaps given up. Hold onto this truth because we will see it repeated throughout this message.
One Bible hero hit the wall and crashed—big time! That broken hero is the focus of our study today. My prayer is that our study of Elijah’s crash will be a source of hope and encouragement for each of us. Whether we are living in the shadow of some past crash, or whether we are smashed against the wall right now, we need the message of Elijah’s crash.
ELIJAH HITS THE WALL — “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ And he arose and ate and drank and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God” [1 KINGS 19:1-8].
His brilliance lit up leaden skies darkened as God’s people embraced rank paganism. Flashing like a meteor across those dark skies, Elijah had stood alone against the grossest form of paganism. The allure of Baalism and the worship of his consort Asherah had seduced Israel until the Faith of the Living God had become a mere caricature of eternal truth. With few exceptions, and those timid in the extreme, the people had embraced the rank sexual nature of the putrid religion, even going so far as to sacrifice their children to these fetid gods. They didn’t abort their children, they killed them after they were born so that they could enjoy even more exaltation of the self. One man stood boldly against this pervasive idolatry.
As a prophet of the Living God, Elijah pronounced judgement in the form of a drought. Neither the storm god, Baal, nor his consort, Asherah, could alter the divine decree. Even kings were reduced to searching the land for grass and for water to maintain life for the livestock. Idolaters were unable to thwart the will of the Living God. We know that no mortal can defy the Creator of heaven and earth; what God has decreed shall be. In Scripture, we read, “God chose … so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” [1 CORINTHIANS 1:28-29].
After seven long years of divine judgement in the form of drought upon the land, Elijah, the prophet of God, confronted the vile toad that squatted on the throne of Israel. Elijah demanded a showdown with the prophets of Baal and Asherah. All Israel witnessed the contest that the man of God proposed. Four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and four hundred prophets of Asherah gathered on Mount Carmel. These pretenders were given a bullock and were instructed to build an altar. Then, sacrificing the bullock, they were to place the beast on the altar, praying that their gods would accept the sacrifice by sending fire to consume the offering. Elijah, standing for the Living God, would do the same thing.
Of course, there was no contest—neither Baal nor Asherah could do anything; they could neither answer nor act. The LORD God, Maker of heaven and earth, sent fire—fire so hot that it consumed not only a saturated sacrifice, but also the stones of the altar and the water that had flooded the trench that Elijah had dug around the altar. Listen to me, a god who cannot light wet wood is not worth dry faith! The Living God accepts true sacrifice, consuming that sacrifice with holy fire!
The people, having witnessed God’s power fell on their faces, immediately crying out, “The LORD, He is God; The LORD, He is God.” At Elijah’s command, they seized the false prophets and killed them all with the sword. After this, at to Elijah’s word, God sent rain. Racing before the storm, Elijah ran in front of Ahab, who was riding in his chariot, from Carmel to Jezreel, a distance of at least twenty-five miles or forty kilometers. The man of God was exultant! He was stoked! All this was accomplished in the power of the LORD; however, all that had been accomplished was at great emotional and physical expense to the LORD’s prophet. Service before the Lord is emotionally and physically draining.
Upon arriving at the palace at Jezreel, Ahab related to Jezebel all that had taken place. He told her how the prophet had revealed God’s might and the way in which the people responded to the revelation of the Living God. When she heard this, her rage knew no bounds. How dare this little man defy her gods! She sent word to Elijah that she intended to have his head, and he fled for his life. The man who had stood alone against a nation in rebellion against God now ran in fear at the mere threat of an enraged queen.
It seems almost impossible to comprehend—Elijah had boldly declared that Israel would experience divine judgement in the form of a drought. Knowing that the king was searching for him, he was secreted in an out-of-the-way place where the LORD miraculously provided for him. As suddenly as he disappeared, he reappeared to confront the king and the false religion that was enervating Israel. Elijah had experienced God’s power; he knew he could depend upon the Living God. However, when an enraged queen expressed her displeasure, Elijah fled in terror. The sad truth is, when you are at the end of your rope physically and all your emotions are on high alert, you can be readily broken. In fact, given the right conditions, each of us will break, surrendering to our fear. Because we are followers of the Risen Saviour does not exempt us from the consequences that attend physical and emotional exhaustion.
Elijah ran for his life. The biblical account is concise, but nonetheless tragic. In the biblical account, we read, “[Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” The opening words of the next verse inform us, “There [Elijah] came to a cave and lodged in it” [1 KINGS 19:4-9a].
Talk about disappointment! All the way from the heights of Carmel in the power of the Spirit to the interior of a dark cave in the desert where he had been driven by fear and weakness. What a tumble the great man of God had experienced! Exhausted, emotionally drained, he was easily terrified by the mere threat of an indignant queen. I suspect that any one of us would have reacted in the same way. The threat of powerful people can not only disquiet us, it can terrify us!
We must always remember that our foe is powerful, though he is not all-powerful. We must never forget, as the Apostle has written, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” [EPHESIANS 6:12]. Our conflict is not with people; our struggle is with spiritual powers.
Our ancient foe has millennia of experience observing the human condition, and years observing each of us individually. He knows precisely where we are weakest, and he is able to focus his strength on our weakness, debilitating and disabling us. He will always seek to hinder our advance in the Faith and our advance of the Faith. If fear of man is somehow insufficient to trip us up, he will suggest that we are not all that we should be. Too often, we heed his voice and we begin to doubt our value to the Master, doubt our appointment given by Christ the Lord, doubt that we can accomplish anything of eternal value. Few conditions are more devastating to the human condition than doubt, which leads almost inevitably to depression. Because we are followers of the Risen Son of God does not mean that we are immune to depression.
I remind you that many great servants of the Living God have experienced depression—depression so dark that it felt as though they may never come out of the morass! Here is a biblical example from the writings of Jeremiah.
“I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.
“He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
he has broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.
“He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;”
Jeremiah felt there was no light, no hope! This is incredible, the prophet of God, a man who stood firmly against his own nation as it turned against the Living God, had hit the wall. Have you ever been there?
Move forward in the centuries following the resurrection of our Lord and think of the great reformer, Martin Luther. Luther went through such severe depression that his wife would remove all the knives from the home because she feared he would kill himself. At one point, Luther wrote, “For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled constantly. I could find no thoughts of Christ, only of desperation and blasphemy of God.”  That is true depression! Can anyone relate to what Luther experienced?
We honour Charles Spurgeon as one of the luminaries of the nineteenth century. Spurgeon was perhaps the greatest preacher of any century. Yet, he informed his congregation, “I have spent more days shut up in depression than probably anybody else here.”  Throughout his ministry, Spurgeon struggled against depression. It is said that services were often delayed until his deacons would retreat to the furnace room where they would find him struggling to control his spirit. These godly men would gather around and pray for the great preacher, seeking God’s help and encouragement. Otherwise, he was unable to face the congregation. That is incapacitating depression. Can anyone relate to what Spurgeon experienced?
One of the great tragedies of modern reading habits is that many classics that were known and loved by our spiritual forebears have been lost to our culture. Oh, they are still available, but we haven’t the patience to read them. We are incapable of allowing our imaginations to work in order to instruct us in matters of life; we’ve been trained to depend upon modern television art to visualise what is happening in a story. One classic that we have lost was written by John Bunyan. He wrote of Christian, the pilgrim journeying to the Glorious City together with his companion Hopeful. At one point in the story, these two pilgrims were taken by the Giant Despair and put into Doubting Castle. They are only delivered after a horrific fight in which Mr. Great-heart, old Honest and four young men fight the Giant and his wife, Diffidence.
Bunyan understood whereof he wrote since he had ample reason to struggle with doubt and with despondency. Following his description of this battle, he wrote, “I saw in my dream, when all these things were finished, Mr. Great-heart took the head of Giant Despair, and set it upon a pole by the highway side, right over against the pillar that Christian erected for a caution to pilgrims that came after, to take heed of entering into his grounds.
“Though Doubting Castle be demolish’d,
And the Giant Despair hath lost his head,
Sin can rebuild the Castle, make’t remain,
And make Despair the Giant live again.” 
In our text, Elijah hit the wall! He had expended his energies standing tall for the glory of the Living God. He had defied the faux gods, Baal and Asherah, singlehandedly turning a nation back to the worship of the True and Living God and driving the false gods into oblivion. However, the emotional toll was far greater than he could have imagined. Though he had stood firm in the knowledge of God’s power, it had meant that he was exhausted mentally and emotionally. Therefore, when Jezebel threatened him, all he could see was her position as an enraged queen. He ran; and under the conditions, I suggest that any of us might well have run as fast and as far as Elijah ran. Elijah was stressed to the max, and stress will drive us to despair.
It is a tragic observation that we are seldom as strong as we imagine ourselves to be. Perhaps it is true that modern people overestimate their strength, but it is assuredly accurate to note that contemporary Christians tend to imagine that we can “take it,” whatever “it” may be. However, there is a dreadful toll exacted whenever we stand firm for the cause of Christ. This is one reason why we need to pray for one another, encourage one another, build one another, comfort one another. This is one major reason why we need to unite in assemblies where we can fulfil the ministries to serve one another as the Spirit of God has equipped us to do. Followers of the Saviour who attempt to stand alone are setting themselves up for disaster and ruin.
Ultimately, death invades each home. When death strikes, we long for the prayers, the ministrations of fellow saints to give us strength as we pass through the deep waters. At last, illness, or financial reversal, or disappointment, or trials of various kinds will touch each life. When these challenges come, and these challenges shall surely come, though we may wish we could stand alone, we will discover we need one another. There comes a time for each of us when we hit the wall, and there will be nowhere to turn. Hitting the wall is painful, and more so because despite our protests to the contrary we are compelled to admit our weakness.
A major victory almost always leaves us weary and susceptible to spiritual exhaustion. You may have struggled against overwhelming odds at one time or another, experiencing victory through Christ the Lord. There is a grave danger in such victories; at such times, exhausted from the exertion of gaining the victory, we are vulnerable to the suggestions of the wicked one as he plants seeds of doubt which, when they have taken root, begin to grow in our heart. Soon, the sunlight of the Saviour’s love is obscured, and the rich growth of spiritual success begins to die. What a tragic time lies in store for the child of God when the brambles of doubt have taken root.
STRESS CAN DRIVE US INTO THE DARK CAVE OF DESPAIR — Stress is a killer. Stress will kill us physically, and it is a spiritual killer! We succumb to stress, surrendering to base desires, justifying our surrender by the fact that the stress became too great. Whatever happened to the promise delivered to believers that has encouraged so many throughout the long millennia? “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” [1 CORINTHIANS 10:13]. Stress, if ignored, will drive us into the cave of despair. There, we are capable of the most horrifying acts against godliness.
Jezebel sent word that she would kill Elijah. Elijah took her at her word. A show that I enjoy watching is entitled “Homicide Hunter.” It features a retired police detective from Colorado Springs, Colorado. One of his sayings that is featured in the promos for the show has him saying, “If someone says they are going to kill you, you need to believe them.” Elijah took the words of Jezebel to heart. He fled for his life, as the text states: “[Elijah] was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there” [1 KINGS 19:3].
Much as is true for us, when he was discouraged, Elijah just wanted to be alone. Though he chose to leave his servant behind, his discouragement led him to whine that he was deserted and bereft of all companionship. We do the same thing when we are stressed—we complain that we are all alone, that we are deserted, that nobody cares for us. All the while, we have walled ourselves off from the strength and support we should anticipate from fellow believers. Those who could be a support are held at arm’s length. Perhaps we don’t believe we deserve encouragement. More likely, we are simply so stressed that we can’t face up to anyone. We are beginning to enjoy our misery. Somehow, soaking in our own misery seems appropriate.
The divine text informs readers that, “[Elijah] ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there” [1 KINGS 19:3]. When we read that he “left his servant there,” it is evident that Elijah deliberately chose to be alone! The prophet is exhibiting classic symptoms of depression, depression born out of stress. The man of God wouldn’t seek help because he believed he was deserted. His disappointment ensured a self-fulfilling prophecy. The divine text informs us, “[Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers’” [1 KINGS 19:4].
Despair was writ large on Elijah’s heart! Disappointment overwhelmed the man of God. Desperation had taken control of the Prophet’s life. By the way, no one had said, or even intimated, that Elijah was better than his fathers. We would almost think that he had a higher opinion of himself than was otherwise warranted. What must be recognised is that Elijah’s statement betrays a brokenness, a desperation that arises because he feels hopeless. Some of you have been at that place when you cried out to God, saying that you were crushed and wondering whether it was worth going on.
Our God is wonderfully compassionate; He does not rebuke us as our weakness deserves. Though Elijah complained and wished he was dead, God ignored him, sending instead encouragement in the form of rest and an angel to feed the wearied prophet. Thus, we read, “[Elijah] lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ And he arose and ate and drank and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God” [1 KINGS 19:5-8].
That is also the way the Lord works in our lives—He doesn’t give us what we want; instead, He gives us what we need. And Elijah needed nourishment and rest. It is a rare occurrence when a leader confesses his inability to lead. We witness such humility before the Lord on one occasion when Jehoshaphat faced imminent destruction. The Moabites, allied with the Ammonites and strengthened by the addition of what appears to be Meunite mercenaries, united in a concerted attack against Judah. Jehoshaphat’s response to this threat was to pray, and what a prayer it was. Listen to the prayer of this godly king.
Standing before the nation, the King prayed, “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy—behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” [2 CHRONICLES 20:6-12]. When did you last hear a politician admit, “We do not know what to do?” When did you last hear a politician call on God for deliverance? When did you last hear a politician admit he had no answer?
I seriously doubt that any of us present today is facing death because of our fellowship with the Living God. However, a perceived threat to family stability, or the threat of losing friendship because we are seeking to honour God, can assuredly leave us shaken and feeling as if our world is being destroyed—and those threats are real! Under such threats to our peace, we may well begin to believe that there is nowhere to go but into the dark cave of depression. When we are hammered by the pressures of this life, threatened by the wicked because we dared stand for the righteousness of the Living God, our emotions will often tell us that we are deserted, bereft of help and left on our own. Thus frightened by our situation, we want to retreat to the back of the cave. Is there someone who can relate to this? Is there someone who is there?
I cannot tell you that there is no threat; but I can tell you that there is no threat that is greater than the God whom we serve. No pressure we face will overwhelm Him, and our particular situation did not catch Him by surprise. He knows us, and He knows what we are facing. Moreover, He is prepared to deliver us according to His perfect plan for our life.
GOD MUST CALL US OUT OF THE DARKNESS TO SEE HIS GLORY — “What are you doing here, Elijah” [1 KINGS 19:9b]? God was calling His prophet out of the darkness of the cave. For some of you listening to me at this time, you recently heard the voice of the Living God asking you, “What are you doing here?” Perhaps it was even in the course of this message that you heard Him calling you. Others are in need of hearing that voice asking you the same question. You need to hear God’s voice because fear is drowning out the voice of the Lord!
Your imagination taunts you, “My child may hate me if I stand for what is right.” Perhaps your thoughts frighten you by falsely claiming, “My friends will think poorly of me if I don’t go along with their actions.” If they hate you, it is because they never were your friends. Remember that “a friend loves at all times” [PROVERBS 17:17a]. It is quite possible that you imagine in the dark recesses of your heart, “My church will be horrified at what I’ve done, so I must remain quiet.” And, yet, the voice of the Saviour asks, “What are you doing here?”
Isn’t it true that our fear of the unknown is always far worse than the reality we are called to face? So long as we are in the darkness of the cave, we are afraid to come into the light. One great danger of dwelling in the dark interior of the cave of despair is that our eyes will grow accustomed to the dark. It is a frightful condition when the eyes of any servant of the Living God adjust to the dark. It means that the individual will soon begin to accommodate sin. Therefore, God must call His servant out, must call us into the light, so that we can again see Him at work and so that we can avoid stumbling and falling down.
I do not deny that God can work in the darkness, He did create light when darkness covered the face of the deep. However, it is also true that God is light. You will recall that John has written, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” [1 JOHN 1:5].
Do you remember the words of the Psalmist?
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,’
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.”
God is in the light, and though He walks with us through the dark valley, when we are walking with Him, we are walking in the light. We must come out of the dark cave and into the light.
Here is the point that we must grasp—if we hope to see the glory of God, we must come out of our darkness. Recall the wonderful affirmation we have received through the Apostle, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 CORINTHIANS 4:6]. I cannot be walking in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God if I am lurking in the dark recesses of the cave. God calls us out so that we can see the brilliance of His glory. Are you coming?
ENCOURAGEMENT TO SEE LIFE FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE — “[The LORD] said [to Elijah], ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.’ And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him’” [1 KINGS 19:11-18].
It is said that major battles are really a series of mini-battles fought out on a grand scale. A general has an overview of the entire conflict, but each combatant sees only the desperate struggle that he is experiencing at any given moment. That is assuredly true in the great spiritual battles in which we are compelled to fight. God sees the beginning from the end, but each of us can see only the foe immediately before us. We experience only a desperate struggle to survive; and that struggle is very personal. Just as a soldier needs to trust that the generals have an overview of all that is required for the battle, so the child of God must trust that God is in control of all that is taking place. No struggle required of the child of God is wasted; rather, God is using each facet of the conflict to accomplish His goals. We must trust that He is in control.
While we cannot actually see events from God’s perspective—we are unable to see the end of an affair, and often we are not even aware of all the sinuous curves that brought us into the conflict in which we are ensnared—we can see God’s leadership step-by-step. We can be confident that His mighty hand holds us, and He leads us each step of the way. I have often said, and I want to encourage you to believe, we serve a God too wise to make a mistake and too good to needlessly injure His child.
We can dwell in the darkness at the back of the cave. There, we will tremble in continual terror and experience constant defeat. Alternatively, we can come out of the cave and make the Living God our dwelling place. The choice is ours—the LORD God or the cave, which will it be? I choose to make God my dwelling place. The Psalmist speaks for me when he testifies:
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.’”
How often have the people of God looked to the Most High, claiming the promise that He has given through the Psalmist:
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
The promise is for each of us who choose to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.
God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” And what is fascinating is that God was not finished with the man of God. Elijah had a great mission to fulfil. For you who are at the back of the cave today, I would suggest that your greatest ministries may well lie before you. God has tasks meant just for you, as soon as you come out of the blackness of the dark cave. When you come into the light and again stand before the LORD God, He will assign to you that task that you alone can perform—and it will be glorious! Our God is working even now, and He is calling you out of the darkness into His glorious light. Will you answer Him now? Amen.
 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Cited by J. D. Greear, “Christian, Your Depression Is Real. So Is God’s Deliverance.” October 1, 2018, https://jdgreear.com/blog/christian-depression-real-gods-deliverance/, accessed 7 December 2018
 John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, vol. 3 (Logos Bible Software, Bellingham, WA 2006) 229