Elijah: Overwhelmed but Not Overcome
How has God provided for your family during overwhelming times?
Just as PCS moves can bring out the best and worst in us, Elijah displayed a spectrum of emotions and actions as he moved from place to place. God provided everything Elijah needed during his moves, including rest. He does the same for us. Rest in the assurance that God is with us in every place, and He wants us to trust Him and enjoy the ride.
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
Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”-1 Kings 17:1
When you receive PCS orders to move to another nation, you become, in some ways, an ambassador for the United States. If you are a Christ follower, wherever you go, you are an ambassador for Christ. Chapter 17 of the book of 1 Kings introduces us to one of the more colorful personalities in Scripture, Elijah. His name means, “whose God is the Lord,” or “my God is Yahweh.” Elijah comes on the scene abruptly with no clear information about where he was born, his family history, or his education or training. We know he was a powerful man of God who took his marching orders directly from the Lord—and he moved around a lot.
Elijah was anything but a stoic, stuffy theologian. He engaged with the political and religious environment of his day and was bold to declare that he stood on the side of the Lord. As we look closely at some of Elijah’s moves, we will see various responses that reveal his attitude toward each move. Just as PCS moves can bring out the best and worst in us, Elijah displayed a spectrum of emotions and actions as he moved from place to place.
The admirable trait that Elijah consistently displayed was his commitment to live his life in service to the Lord. Whether he was calling down fire from heaven, or in desperate need of food and water to survive, he did not waver in his commitment to live out the meaning of his name—my God is Yahweh.
Christ-followers in the military have the opportunity to live like Elijah. Carrying the name of the Lord to places across our nation and around the world is a privilege that many will never have. This does not mean that Christ followers need to call down fire from heaven. However, we can let the fire of the Lord burn within our hearts to the extent that we draw others to the warmth of Christ’s love heard in our words and seen in our lives.
In what ways have you carried the name of the Lord as you move from place to place? How “hot” is your fire for the Lord burning today?
Lord, I pray you would use me as a witness for you. Make my love for you burn so bright that my actions and words draw people to you. I want to be a strong representative for you wherever my feet lead me today. Amen.
A New Pair of Shoes
And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.-1 Kings 17:2-6
While many of the basic trainees continually complained to the chaplain about the schedule and living conditions, one of the new recruits seemed happy all the time. He told my husband: “I can’t remember when someone cooked me three hot meals a day! And the shoes they issued me are the first pair of brand new shoes I’ve ever had in my life!” The Army met his needs and he was content. His attitude was refreshing!
Elijah prophesied boldly to the wicked king of Israel: “There shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1b). His message was blunt, brief, and confident. The gods King Ahab worshipped represented nonsense and Elijah came on the scene to make known that the one true God tolerated no rival.
Following this encounter, the Lord told Elijah to leave the area and move for a time to an isolated spot by a brook. There God protected Elijah from the wrath of the king, and he prepared him for what was to come. There is no record of Elijah questioning God about the orders, but who could blame him if he did?
When asked to share his best PCS advice, my friend Brian mischievously said, “Go kicking and screaming!” That has been me on more than one occasion. That would have been me if God had told me to go live by a brook that only flowed in the rainy season with the promise that untamed ravens would bring me food. It would take much restraint not to ask, “Seriously, Lord?”
Thankfully, Elijah was better at obeying God than I would have been, because he did as God instructed. Beside that brook, God met all of Elijah’s basic needs. You know, the Lord used ravens to feed Elijah and he has used Uncle Sam to feed my family and me. Sure, God can use General Motors, Wal-Mart, or any other company to provide for a family, but the military is one institution the Lord uses to meet the needs of some people. If you are reading this, chances are God is using the military to meet your needs.
Next time I move, I am confident the Lord will provide a place to live, food to eat, and if I need them, I can even buy myself a new pair of shoes!
How has God used the military to meet your needs? Take some time to list the ways you and your family’s needs are met by the military.
Lord, thank you for meeting my needs through my husband’s military service. Forgive me when I express more complaints than gratitude. Remind me of the blessings that are mine and make me truly grateful. Amen.
Come Live In Our Basement
And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”-1 Kings 17:7-9
When the stream where Elijah was living dried up, the Lord ordered him to PCS to Zarephath in Sidon. This city was located in the heart of the pagan territory of Jezebel, wife of King Ahab of Israel. She and her husband both wanted to do Elijah harm. Now if I had been in Elijah’s sandals, I might have requested a change to these orders. I would have questioned the wisdom of going to a place where my God was not their god and where the most powerful woman in Israel, who wanted my head in a basket, had influential relatives.
On top of that, God’s orders contained a footnote that said a widow would be taking care of his basic needs. This was not a rich widow, but one who was down to her last handful of meal and cup of oil. In fact, her plan was to make one last loaf of bread for her son and herself and then to die. I would be hard pressed not to say again, “Seriously, Lord?”
The Lord continues to teach me not to question how he can work out his plans for my family. If there was one place my husband did not want to be assigned it was Washington, DC. When PCS orders came down for DC in the middle of my son’s senior year of high school, I was not a happy camper. We might as well have been Elijah getting ready to move to a godforsaken land. After the fact, I can say DC was a great place to live.
Our biggest logistical obstacle was maintaining a household in North Carolina to allow my son to finish high school while my husband found an inexpensive place to stay in Northern Virginia. Have you checked the cost of housing in Northern Virginia? The words inexpensive and housing do not go together there. We had no idea how we would afford to maintain two households.
As always, God had a plan. Through the involvement of one of my friends, a couple we had never met opened the basement apartment in their home to my husband for the cost of utilities alone. The woman said that she had never had anyone live in her house, but she believed the Lord had spoken to her to offer the space to this man whom she did not know. He lived there for six months before the rest of the family arrived.
Sister, God can use a PCS move to meet the needs of your family in ways that you have not imagined. Sometimes God uses people who seem most unlikely. Trust the Lord to know where you are going and what you need in order to make the transition.
Have you questioned the Lord’s timing for a PCS move? If so, why? What lessons did you learn as the plan unfolded?
Lord, help me to trust your timing in my life today. Remind me that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Amen.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor
After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”-1 Kings 18:1
After three years in Zarephath, moving orders came again for Elijah. This time his assignment took him to Samaria where he made an appearance before King Ahab. Read 1 Kings 18 to see how the Lord used Elijah here. God energized him as he prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 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” (1 Kings 18:36b–37). At that moment, fire fell from heaven and consumed all that was on the altar. Shocked, the people who saw the spectacle declared, “The LORD, he is God: the LORD, he is God” (1 Kings 18:39b).
If fire from heaven were not enough, Elijah bowed again to pray—this time for rain. God answered this prayer as well and the rain that had not fallen for three years fell from the sky.
The apostle James wrote: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17–18). What good news! Yes, Elijah was God’s prophet, but the message of James is that the same power of prayer that Elijah demonstrated is available to you and me!
I recall looking out the window of our little row house. Germany had been home for a few months and I was feeling isolated and lonely. I did not see how I could contribute to my military community as a stay-at-home mom. I spoke no German and had little hope to affect the foreign community in which I lived. One morning during my devotional time, I read an entry in Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest in which he writes,
Your part in intercessory prayer is … to utilize the commonsense circumstances God puts you in, and the commonsense people He puts you amongst, by His providence, to bring them before God’s throne and give the Spirit in you a chance to intercede for them.
Though I could not be sure of the opportunities this assignment would bring, I knew one thing: God had moved me here and now he moved in my heart to pray for my neighbors.
Sister, you do not know how God will use you when you move to a new location. Will he ask you to be a leader? Will you start a neighborhood Bible study in your home? Will you play a significant role in your military spouse support group? You may not be certain of the specifics, but you can be certain God wants you to pray with power, just like Elijah.
How can the words of Oswald Chambers, above, help you when you consider a PCS move?
Lord, one of the greatest gifts I can offer my neighbors is prayer. I pray you would bless them with health and protection. I pray you would provide for their needs and grant them peace. I pray their relationships would be healthy and strong. I pray they would know you and be strengthened in their faith. Use me as your hands and feet in every interaction with my neighbors. Amen.
Overcome and Overwhelmed
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.”-1 Kings 19:1-4
Have you ever lived in a place where you tried to do everything right and things still went wrong? You do family devotions with your kids and one still gets in trouble at school. You go to church and even attend Bible study but you still have a neighbor that criticizes you. Your husband works long hard hours and his boss is still intent on ending his career. If so, you can identify with Elijah. He took a bold stand for God and Jezebel swore an oath to kill him within twenty-four hours. Yikes!
What do you do when things go wrong? Elijah may not have handled this one in the best possible way. He made an immediate unplanned move to the wilderness. To be more precise, the Scripture states, “He arose and ran for his life!”
Emotionally, fear overcame him—fear for his life. Healthy fear keeps us away from things that may harm us. Then there is crippling fear that shakes our confidence in ourselves, makes us question our faith in God, and moves us to go AWOL.
An immoral lifestyle in disobedience to God did not bring on Elijah’s emotional state. God had sent him to the assignment where he confronted the evil rulers. Elijah was doing his best job. Yet his prophetic career had never faced such a tough challenge.
A time may come when you—or someone you know—find yourself struggling through a tough assignment. Your husband’s job may be the source of the difficulty. The isolation of a difficult location may get you down. Problems with your children may seem overwhelming. Or, heaven forbid, you may face a combination of all three. If you find yourself ready to run—don’t!
Jesus never said the life of a Christ follower would be easy. In fact, he warned us, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).
The bad thing about a great assignment is that you have to leave in two or three years. The good thing about that place you can’t wait to see in your rearview mirror is that you can leave in two or three years. The great thing about being a Christ follower is that he is with you always, in every place. When you are in a tough place, take heart in him.
What are some of the characteristics of a tough assignment? What hope do Psalm 3:4, Psalm 34:17, and Psalm 50:15 offer during overwhelming times?
Lord, thank you for the assurance that you are with me always, in every place. Keep me in remembrance of this truth: “Blessed is the [woman] who remains steadfast under trial, for when [she] has stood the test [she] will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Amen.
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