“It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
These are the words that Elijah wearily uttered as he sat down under a broom tree after a day on the run. He was escaping from Jezebel, the queen of Israel, who had threatened to kill him by the following day.
What did God do in response? Did He berate Elijah for uttering such words? Did He scold Elijah for running in fear AFTER he had just played a major role in the mighty victory against Baal on Mount Carmel?
No, God didn’t. Instead, He let Elijah sleep while He sent an angel prepare food and water for Elijah so that he would have strength to reach the destination he was running away to – a mountain called Mount Horeb. It is here that God would ask Elijah a simple question.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
And in response, Elijah would honestly express to God what was in his heart. He questions what good has all his zealousness for the Lord accomplished. As a nation, Israel had forsaken God’s covenant, tore down His altars and killed His prophets, of which Elijah believed he was the last one, and now Jezebel was seeking to kill him as well.
And it is here that God unfolds His plan to Elijah – a plan that though not as visible as a strong wind, an earthquake or a fire – was still quietly accomplishing God’s purposes for ridding Israel of Baal worship. Not only that, God revealed to Elijah that He had reserved another 7,000 people who had not bowed down to Baal, and God also showed Elijah who would be the next prophet to take his place. (From 1. Kings 19).
“Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts…why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?”
These are the words that Jeremiah, the prophet of God, spoke to God as he sat alone.
His words brought a rebuke and a promise from God, who told him to repent and utter words that were true and precious, not vile and false. Then, God would restore him and he would be as God’s mouth to the people of Judah, and though the people would fight against Jeremiah, they would not be able to prevail over him, for God would be with him to save and deliver him. (from Jeremiah 15:15 – 20).
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
These are the words that Jesus cried out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to being arrested and crucified. He was honest with God – “If it is Your will, take this cup away from Me” – but He was also humble before God – “Not my will, but Yours, be done”. (From Luke 22:39 – 46)
As I reflect on these three passages of honest words uttered by Elijah, Jeremiah and Jesus to God above, I find that I can take heart in the truth that it is ok to be honest before God, instead of trying to be strong and squish down the despair and agony that sometimes threatens to overwhelm me as I walk through some deep waters. Elijah was weary and in despair – so much so he even asks God to take his life. Yet, what does God do? He refreshes Elijah with food and water so he has the strength to keep on running…
All the way to Mount Horeb. And I cannot help but wonder if this is because God knows that it is here in this place that Elijah can fully unveil what it in his heart. Not only that, God knows that it is here in this place that Elijah will be willing to listen to what God has to say to him.
Jeremiah is also weary and in despair, but in his cry to God, he speaks words to God that are not true of God. But once again, in these verses I find threads of God’s mercy and His grace. God doesn’t reject and cast aside Jeremiah for what he has said. Instead, He tells Jeremiah that if he returns (repents) that He will restore him and he will be as God’s voice to the people.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus alone understands the agony of suffering that the next hours are going to bring. So, He gets alone with God and asks that if it is His will, could this cup be taken from Him? This is a plan that has been in place before the creation of the world, and yet, in these dark hours, Jesus honestly pours out His heart to God, and it is as He is doing this that an angel comes and strengthens him. Jesus is in such great agony that he prays even more earnestly…so much so that his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground. But then he rises and steps forward to complete the work for which He had come to earth.
Elijah, Jeremiah and Jesus were honest with God. As they rolled their burdens of their heart onto the shoulders of One who cared for them, they received from Him the strength they needed to complete the journey He had set before them to take.
It is as I have put honesty with God into practice in my own life, pouring out the questions, the agony, the despair, and whatever else burdens my heart to the One who cares for me, that I have found my heart lightened and strengthened to carry on in the journey that He has set before me to take. My hope and prayer is that you will find this also to be true in your own life.
Father, there are times when the waters that you take us through are difficult and it is hard to not become overwhelmed. Please help us to remember that we can be honest with You, and we can cast our burdens onto Your shoulders, because You care for us and You will sustain us. Amen.