Elijah: Never Alone
What do the Scriptures say about how God cares for us when we feel alone?
Major moves can bring feelings of isolation, can’t they? We look for God in the spectacular moments, but wonder where He is in the lonely ones. God’s message to Elijah is His message to you. He is in the quiet moments of change, the waiting, and yes, even the disappointment. Look for God this week and trust that no matter how you feel, you are not alone.
About This Journey
Relocation is one of the top stressors in Military life. Learning to be content in our circumstances is hard, and too often we allow complaint and comparison to rob us of daily joy and peace. In “Determined to Thrive in Relocation”, we study how God’s presence and direction during times of relocation can bring peace in the midst of change.
This Week's Readings
I’ve Had Enough!
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.”-1 Kings 19:4
“A whopping 90 percent of female military spouses—more than 600,000 people—are either unemployed or underemployed, according to a recent study,” reported ABC News on a study by Syracuse University and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The study cited frequent moves as the leading cause of difficulty in military spouses finding employment.
When you consider that what we do is closely associated with our assessment of who we are, you can understand how a military spouse can experience bouts of depression based on the repetitive cycle of reestablishing identity. This can be especially true when it comes to employment and career path. Military wife and journalist Michelle Aikman expressed it this way: “All of the momentum created before a move feels swept away—mobility can leave us feeling defeated and questioning our worth because we have to constantly prove it to gain access to new opportunities.”
Elijah followed up his fear of Jezebel’s threats with an overwhelming sense of failure. He quit. He walked away from his assignment where thousands of people had seen him call down fire from heaven. He took off on a journey unsanctioned by God, and now he was alone in the desert, feeling like a failure, overwhelmed, and ready to die.
Isn’t it amazing how the status of his self-assessment changed quickly with the change of location from Mt. Carmel to the wilderness of Beersheba? Most of us do not face the same circumstances as Elijah did in feeling his life threatened, but we can perhaps relate to the stress of fear brought on by relocation. Elijah interpreted Jezebel’s threat as the end of his ministry.
Elijah might have responded differently if he had predicted Jezebel’s response to his prophetic role. He still should have called down the fire, and given it his best effort. However, she caught him off guard with her proclaimed death sentence. He did not see that one coming!
One way for military wives to lessen the disappointment that can accompany a perceived depreciation of status brought on by a PCS is to anticipate the need for an adjustment period after moving. More importantly, military wives who want to work, or not, should never forget that their value as a person cannot be determined by salary or position. Measure true worth only by eternal standards.
Even though Elijah left his “job,” God was not finished with him. God has a life plan for us all. Check with him for your next position.
“People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit” (Isaiah 26:3 MSG). How does this Scripture encourage and challenge you as you think about the future?
Lord, in the midst of change and challenge, help me be steadfast in my faith in you. Keep me on the path of obedience and trust. Amen.
Breakfast in Bed
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 19:4-8
As much as I loved military life, there were times, like Elijah, I said to the Lord, “I’ve had enough!” No sooner had I adjusted to a new place than it was time to leave. Don’t get me wrong, I knew military life was God’s will for our family, but there were days of struggle to align with my heart what I knew in my head.
One of my “I’ve had enough” times happened during a PCS move that took place in January. Moving in the off-season brought unique challenges. Life at the new duty station was already in full swing. My kids had to start school mid-year and I felt like I had to insert myself into groups that already had their momentum and rhythm. The idea exhausted me. So, what did I do? I am not proud of this, but for several months I locked my door, pulled the shades, and floundered in my isolation. Taking time to rest following a PCS is a good thing, but I went beyond the rest boundary and found myself depressed. I sent my kids off to school and, most mornings, I went back to bed. Bed was safe.
While I want to follow Elijah’s example in many ways, this is one way I wish I did not relate. Elijah isolated himself. He reached the wilderness out of energy and all alone after having left his servant in Beersheba (1 Kings 19:3). Sister, let me tell you, when the going gets tough it is not the time to travel alone.
Our good God did not leave Elijah alone. In fact, he sent an angel to provide sustenance. God was not finished with Elijah. The prophet needed physical and spiritual strength to continue the journey and fulfill God’s purpose, and God provided just what he needed. God did not tell Elijah to run for his life—that was Elijah reacting to his circumstances. But God gently reminded Elijah through the food he sent that he was a God who was present with him and who would provide for him.
Did you notice that something more than protein and carbs fortified the food the Lord’s angel fed Elijah? After a second serving, Elijah was able to embark on a journey lasting forty days and forty nights. God knows the fortified spiritual nourishment we need to get out of our bed of despair and hit the trail to the place he knows we need to be. Taste and see that the Lord is good!
How did God care for Elijah physically, emotionally, and spiritually? How do God’s actions toward Elijah give you confidence when you think about a PCS move?
Lord, you have made me with body, soul, and spirit. You care not only for my spiritual well-being, you also care for my emotional and physical well-being. Help me to use wisdom to rest when I am tired from the day’s activities. May I rest in your strength. Amen.
I’m the Only One Left!
There he 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.”-1 Kings 19:9-10
Our first military assignment was rich in deep relationships and community. We thrived as a family as we embraced living on a military installation. The close-knit neighborhood and sense of family in our chapel was an ideal introduction to military life. Then, everyone left. Our dearest friends and closest neighbors all moved away at the same time. I felt abandoned, as if I were the only one who stayed behind.
The food God fed Elijah gave him strength to journey forty days and nights until he came to a cave at Mt. Horeb. God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Elijah’s response was that he had worked hard for the Lord, but it did not matter because everyone else had forsaken God. He felt he was the only one left, so it made no sense to continue. Elijah was practicing selective memory. He was far from the only person left who served God. Read 1 Kings 18 and you will see one hundred prophets hidden (1 Kings 18:4), the people who seized the prophets of Baal and killed them (1 Kings 18:40), and seven thousand godly worshippers in Israel! No, Elijah was not the only one left.
I certainly can see how Elijah felt alone. That first assignment threw me a curve-ball in that I, too, felt as if I were the only one left. I knew it was not true, but it took time to grieve the departure of so many dear friends. I remembered how it felt to be the new military wife in the community two years earlier. I determined to look for opportunities to welcome new neighbors and new spouses to my husband’s unit.
The fluidity of people coming and going let me see that I needed to be a productive part of a military community. The military tradition called the Hail and Farewell showed me the flow of time in being welcomed and in being welcoming. Whether in a formal setting or a family barbecue with your new unit, a Hail and Farewell introduces new members to the group as well as says goodbye to those leaving. So, when you are feeling down due to sad farewells, just look around and you will find someone who needs a warm hail. No matter how you feel, you are not alone.
How can you keep your witness for Christ bold and strong in the midst of a PCS move? What do Hebrews 13:5, Proverbs 18:1, Psalm 73:23, and Psalm 23:4 tell you about being or feeling alone?
Lord, thank you for the promise never to leave or forsake me. May I always desire your presence and say: “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (Psalm 73:28). Amen.
What Are You Doing Here?
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?”-1 Kings 19:11-13
The assignment I mentioned earlier, during which I isolated myself, could have turned out differently. I often wonder what would have happened if I had stayed stuck in my melancholy. Looking back, I realize that was a turning point. My husband had been in the military long enough for me to see the potential for resentment to build up toward Uncle Sam. I had met military spouses who were bitter, angry, and hardened by military life. They looked backward in disappointment instead of forward in hope.
That PCS had brought me to a crossroads where I made a decision. I was not going to give up on hopeful possibilities nor give in to negative emotions. God had brought me to a place where I could hear his voice and he gently reminded me that this was the life to which he had called my family. I did not immediately feel positive about my circumstances, but I decided it was time to take a step toward building relationships and being involved in the community. I did not want to miss what I was to learn or how I was to serve.
1 Kings 19:11–13 reports Elijah moving to a new location, Mt. Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai. This was the same place Moses first encountered God in the burning bush and later received the Ten Commandments from the Lord. He felt alone, but Elijah was not the first one to stand on this mountain before the Lord. When we think we struggle alone, we just need to look around to see the footprints left by many who have stood in the same dust of despair. Human struggle is not unique.
On Mt. Horeb, God repeated the question to Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Like a wise counselor, God was asking him to do some soul-searching and re-evaluation of his circumstances. He allowed Elijah to vent his frustrations and he listened patiently. We often look for the miraculous and the spectacular as the only way God can speak and show himself. But God’s message to Elijah is a message to you and me. He is sometimes in the quiet moments of change, the times of waiting, and yes, even the times of disappointment.
God knew Elijah was at a difficult place. I find it encouraging that God did not leave Elijah on a mountain with questions echoing through the caverns of his heart. The Lord redirected his focus and got him moving in the right direction. Sister, God will not leave you when you are confused and discouraged. He wants to engage and redirect us. He cares and he has a purpose.
How can a PCS move keep you from hearing the “low whispers” of God? What can you do to help you hear God’s whispers?
Lord, make my ears quick to listen to your voice. Still my heart today and let me know you are God. Amen.
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.-1 Kings 19:15-16
The “#listersgottalist” tag line on Instagram got my attention. After a little digging, I discovered a huge group of folks who have made a hobby out of creative listing. The concept is to create lists about things you love, goals you want to achieve, and memories you want to keep by creating a decorative journal filled with lists. Over twenty thousand people have downloaded the journal prompts and accepted the creative list challenge.
I admire anything that facilitates creativity and promotes goal-setting and memory-keeping. My list-making efforts tend to be more practical. I would hate to admit how many times I get home from the grocery store only to realize I did not purchase the very thing that prompted me to shop! Yes, I need a list to keep me on track.
We’ve mentioned before the helpful nature of lists during a PCS. When you are under the type of stress brought on by a PCS, forgetting important details is easy.
Elijah was under stress, but what did God do? He gave him a list of what to do next. Elijah did not have to think deeply or be in a super-spiritual state of mind. He just had to follow the checklist. The tasks focused his energy on something other than his circumstances.
Elijah did not respond with renewed strength or vigor, but he did take a step in the right direction. He functioned and moved forward to journey to three different places and accomplish three critical tasks. He put into practice the adage for success: “function whether you feel like it or not.”
During a PCS, we do not always have to do everything with excitement and enthusiasm. We just need a good list of what we need to do, and then, like the Nike motto implores us—just do it!
What are the benefits of acting on the advice to “function whether you feel like it or not”? Be a “lister” and make a list of the things you need to do today. Take the details of your day to God in prayer.
Lord, grant me the strength to accomplish the tasks set before me today. Help me “fix [my] eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV). Amen.
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