Summary: Sometimes we feel like Elijah - in the pit of despair. The Lord raises us out of depression by 1. Reprimanding Us, and 2. Revitalizing Us.
Have you ever prayed an “I have had enough, Lord” prayer? An “I have had enough” prayer usually comes not long after one or more “what next, Lord?” prayers. We’ve all had times like those in our lives: one thing piling on after another, stress after stress, crisis after crisis, and you might be tempted to say to God, “what next?” And then, after you find out what’s next, when even more problems come your way, finally you reach a breaking point and say something to the effect, “I have had enough, Lord! I’m sick and tired of the way things are, and are you going to do anything about it?”
Have you ever felt like that? If you have, you aren’t the only one. This morning we are going to see a man who was at the end of his rope. And in the verses before our text, he prays and actually tells God, “I have had enough, Lord,” and then he added, “[God], take my life.” You might be surprised to find out who this person was who spoke such a hopeless prayer. It wasn’t someone who didn’t believe in God. It wasn’t someone who was an on-again, off-again believer. This man, who was so depressed that he actually prayed to the Lord to kill him was Elijah, one of the greatest prophets in the Bible. And if he had his down days, we shouldn’t be surprised when we do as well.
So we all get depressed at times. So we all struggle at times. Great, but what help is it knowing that? Not much, until we look at how the Lord is going to deal with us during those times. As we look at this story, you will see that When You Are in the Dumps: 1. The Lord will Reprimand You, 2. The Lord will Revitalize and Refocus You.
In case you don’t remember much about Elijah, he pretty much sums up his life in his first words of our text. “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty.” And that was the truth. Elijah’s frustration didn’t stem from the fact that he had guilt that he wasn’t a hard enough worker for the Lord. Elijah had done everything he was supposed to do and more. He had confronted a king and queen (Ahab and Jezebel) about their sins. Elijah had lived by a stream for a few months, where he had to trust that the Lord would give him food in a place where there was none. God rewarded Elijah’s faith by having birds fly in every day carrying food for him and sharing with him. If you’ve ever had a picnic around some hungry birds, you realize what a miracle it was that these birds shared food with this prophet. Birds sure don’t do that naturally! Once Elijah had prayed for a dead boy, and the Lord brought him back to life. Basketball was originally designed not as a 5 on 5 sport, but you could play it with any number of people. How would you like your odds of winning a basketball game if it were 1 (you) against 450? Well, that’s exactly what Elijah faced on Mt. Carmel. He had a face to face showdown with 450 prophets of the false god Baal. But of course, he also had the Lord on his side, which meant he could not be beaten. Yes, Elijah could honestly say that he had been very zealous for the Lord.
But the way Elijah sees it, God hadn’t held up his end of the bargain. Here was Elijah working hard, doing the things he was supposed to be doing, putting his trust in God. Here he thought that a religious revolution was going to happen in Israel, but instead he gets a death threat from Jezebel and is scared into leaving the land. In his cave, Elijah complains to God about the results of his faithful preaching, “the Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death by the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” You can hear Elijah asking, “what’s going on God? If I knew it was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have taken this job.”
And so the Lord has a rebuke for his depressed prophet. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” “Haven’t I always been with you? Haven’t I always protected and provided for you? Haven’t I given you work to do instead of running away to a cave?” And then God teaches Elijah something about the way he works in this world. “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and stood at the mouth of the cave.” God doesn’t always act miraculously and as powerfully as we would like to see. Sometimes we would wish that God acted more spectacularly and scare and frighten people into obeying him. But that’s not how he chooses to work. The only way that people are truly turned around is through that still small voice of the Gospel. The weak-looking, weak-sounding Gospel. That simple Gospel that even a 3-year-old can understand. That good news that God loves sinners and has figured out a way to overcome people’s sins and give them eternal life, for free. That is where God’s power lies!