There are few things that drive us crazier than a coworker that can’t handle pressure or someone not following through on a promise. Ours is a “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” society that honors self-reliance and personal discipline. We definitely expect it in ourselves and in others. People need to handle their business.
In a car, there are many gauges on the dashboard. We all know what the fuel gauge does and most of us understand the C and the H of the thermostat. On many cars, though, the gauge that moves the most is the tachometer. It’s usually the bar that is as big as the speedometer but is constantly rising higher, only to drop back down to a lower number and start rising again. That gauge tells you how hard the engine is working. At the far end of that gauge is a red area. Once an engine starts running in that red area, something needs to change. The car needs to slow down or change gears. It cannot operate in that space very long before breaking down.
Most of us are living closer to the red line than we would like to admit. We want to give the appearance of discipline and control but live in fear of “one more thing.” There are many people who love God wholeheartedly that still anxiously await the moment the next shoe drops, and control is impossible.
There are days like today when I am there. Today I take refuge in the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings 19. In this passage, we see Elijah, God’s chosen prophet, broken down with stress from all that he was experiencing. God had just allowed him to see a great victory over some serious evil in the world. God had just sent rain after a drought that had lasted three years at the very prayer of Elijah. Really, it was an amazing time. But then it happened. The queen wanted Elijah dead. For Elijah, this was the point when there was no more hope. It was more than he could take. In 1 Kings 19:4, Elijah said, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” At that moment, Elijah struggled to see the point of going on if this was how things were going to be.
A few verses later, Elijah, has a direct conversation with God about his struggles. When God hears Elijah’s concerns, His answer is enlightening for us. Elijah shares with God that he feels like all of the people around him have turned from God even though he has been doing what God called him to do. He explains that he is all alone as a believer and that now the others want to take his life too. God’s answer is different than you would expect. God never directly answers Elijah’s questions. Instead, He gives him three things.
In the face of overwhelming stress, God gives Elijah a job. He tells him to anoint a new king over Aram and a new king over Israel. So, think about that. In the face of “one more thing,” God gives Elijah one more thing! Honestly, though, what God does is focus Elijah’s life on the jobs that are really important. He takes Elijah’s eyes off of the stressors and refocuses them on the purpose he was made. That’s so important for me. God designed us to worship and to serve. On the hardest days, I need to be reminded that my energy comes from my purpose.
God then gives Elijah a person to pour his life into. He directs Elijah to go and call Elisha to walk with him. This is such an amazing moment. Elisha ended up performing twice as many miracles as Elijah did. By walking with Elisha, this mentorship brought growth for both men. If God had taken Elijah when Elijah thought his time was up, the work of Elisha would have never been done. In that time of darkness, Elijah needed a companion. God gave him that.
Finally, God reminds Elijah that he isn’t the only one that believes. He tells Elijah that He has kept seven thousand other people in Israel as His own believers. Even though Elijah felt alone, he never was. One of the most dangerous traps we fall into as believers is the belief that we are the only ones fighting the good fight. We find ourselves constantly pushing back the feeling that we are swimming upstream against a culture that is dying. God reminded Elijah that he wasn’t alone. God had kept thousands for Himself. God is never done.
For me, on days when I feel alone and tired (like today), when I fear just one more thing added to my calendar, I remember these things. I strive to seek my purpose, pour into others, and always remember that I am never alone. These things give me hope, even when things are going crazy all around me. I hope they do the same for you today!