There’s this powerful story about the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18 – maybe you know it? He risks visiting the very people who want him dead – royalty, no less – and then has the audacity to challenge their prophets and god. They all climb a mountain – which, to me, would be more than enough excitement for one day – then Elijah sets his challenge. They build two altars, one to his God, and one to the god of the prophets of the King. Elijah says that whoever can call down fire on their altar will prove that theirs is the true God. Despite being outnumbered by 300:1, he decides to make it more difficult for himself by pouring water over his altar. The others go first and spend the day praying desperately, but in vain. Then Elijah prays, and sure enough, his altar bursts into flames, after which the 300 prophets are killed. Elijah then predicts rain for the first time in years and is given supernatural power to run ahead of a chariot all the way down the mountain.
At the end of all this – we’re in chapter 19 of 1 Kings, now – he is threatened by the enraged Queen and flees.
And that is how this eccentric man finds himself alone and exhausted in the desert, praying for death.
Lately, I’m tired, too. I haven’t run down a mountain or prayed down fire, but I’ve been through the mill and it feels like it. Sometimes my eyes feel so heavy at the end of the day that my head hurts. My body aches and there’s this underlying, constant strain on my mind and heart.
Elijah wasn’t left to die in the desert at the end of himself. This is how his story continues: “Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said: ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said: ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled for 40 days and 40 nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.” (1 Kings 19:5-9)
Elijah later heard God speak to him in that cave, in a gentle whisper, and soon after God gave him Elisha as a faithful helper and apprentice.
God doesn’t leave us to our exhausted, weary lives. He sees those of us who are at the end of ourselves. He visits and cares for us.
In this time of tiredness, God is sustaining my soul. I go to the beach and the salty air, sand and sun bring me back to life. Song lyrics catch at my heart and lift my eyes up to Him. Psalms put words to my sadness, but also give me expressions of praise and worship. People come alongside me and walk with me.
I often return to the end of myself at the moment, feeling like I’ve run out of energy, run out of faith. It’s a hard feeling. But God does come to me, giving “strength for today and hope for tomorrow”.
Have you heard that new Beyonce, song, Freedom? She sings: “I’m telling these tears go and fall away, let the last one burn into flames.”
Sometimes I’m nothing but a water-soaked altar – a life offered, but unlit, perhaps a little tear-drenched – but God has the power to make the whole thing burst into flames. My tired heart can be ignited with His kind of love and grace, my weary mind can burn with heaven-inspired words and my day-to-day work can be lit up with His goodness. And maybe this fire could be catching, lighting up other lives, too?
Today, I’m praying for all the tired souls out there, that God would do that work of caring for us and reigniting our lives.