A Mighty Expenditure Of Amazing Energy
Elijah was coming off three amazing and miraculous events in his life. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit Elijah just “won” a showdown with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah. “…you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God,” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and to the crowd of Israelites assembled there near the sacrificial altar.
The other prophets did everything imaginable including cutting themselves with swords and lances until blood gushed from them. But it was all to no avail. There was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah poured water onto his sacrifice, twice. Then he prayed for God to let it be known that He is God in Israel. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and even the dust around it. And when they saw it all the people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” And after that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were slain.
Then Elijah prayed for rain, because there had been a great drought in Israel up until that time. He prayed with fervency and intensity. He prayed seven times. And the rain came.
Then the Bible says, “…the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.” And Ahab was in a chariot at the time.
Good things are happening to Elijah. God is doing amazing things through Elijah. Through him the Lord is turning the people away from false religions and turning their hearts back toward the true and living God. Through Elijah God is providing rain to a people plagued by drought. (1 Kings Chapter 18)
But look what happens next.
What Happens Next
What happens next is Jezebel, an evil queen, hears about everything Elijah had done. And as a fan of the prophets of Baal and Asherah, she wasn’t happy about it. So she threatened to kill Elijah.
So Elijah ran for his life. He went a day’s journey into the wilderness where he sat down under a juniper tree and said these words to God, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” Then he lay down and slept.
One Cause Of A Crushed Spirit
Last post we discussed a crushed spirit and how, curiously, Paul never prayed for the persecution to go away. In today’s post we see one of the causes of a crushed spirit: exhaustion. Elijah was riding high for awhile there, but he was also expending an amazing amount of energy. He faced overwhelming odds in front of a multitude of his countrymen against the false prophets. He engaged in intense prayer for God to bring rain, to end the brutal drought conditions. And he outran a chariot.
But after all that, what does he say, Elijah, this hero of the faith, one of the greatest prophets to ever live? He says, I want to die.
In response an angel came and provided Elijah with food and drink. And at one point this angel says to him, “…the journey is too great for you.” Elijah’s journey was too great for him, and he became exhausted. And then exhaustion turned into depression for Elijah: depression so deep Elijah wanted to die. And if the great prophet Elijah was susceptible, so am I, and so are you. Exhaustion is one of the common causes of a crushed spirit. It can result in depression, even clinical depression. Exhaustion can also cause anxiety, and ironically, insomnia.
So how should we respond then? How should we deal with exhaustion? Of course as we discussed in our last blog post, our response should be to pray as Paul prayed, “…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…” Ephesians 3:16
But God also gives us additional wisdom to combat exhaustion. “The Sabbath was made for man…” Jesus said. So it was made for you, and for me. It was made for us so we could focus on our Father for a day. And it was also made, in part, for us to avoid exhaustion. And preventing exhaustion can prevent a crushed spirit. (Mark 2:27)
So rest the way God intends for you to rest.
Rest on the Sabbath day.
In the weeks to come we’ll look at what else causes a crushed spirit, according to the Bible.
Tim Keller has an excellent teaching on what the Bible says about the causes of a crushed spirit. You can listen to it here: The Wounded Spirit (HT to my friend Ryan Sample, pastor of Lakeside Family Church, for recommending this teaching.)
Skip Heitzig, Christians in the Crucible of Pain, Connection Communications, 2012
Image via Farrukh – Creative Commons
1) It’s funny but even as I write this post, it’s 1:30 AM and I’m exhausted. My family and I have been working pretty much every waking moment (without much in the way of sleeping moments) for the last couple of days because we’re moving into a different house a few miles away.
2) Making a big push during a move can bring on a temporary kind of exhaustion but I’ve experienced the other kind too. I’ve experienced the kind of exhaustion that develops into depression, and you might be surprised to learn that I’m glad I did. If you’re interested you can read about it here: He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip.
Kurt, Awesome post! Even I had to make some cuts in ministry because I was burning out and being ineffective. I had to sit back and allow God to speak to me what He wanted me to do. I’m glad that you wrote this because there will be many people who are hurting that will find hope after reading your article.
Thanks for your comment Mark and for all you and Mike do over at SolomonsPorchRadio.com.
I’m sharing this with my husband! He works too much 🙁
Jennifer, you might want to have a look at this one too: An Open Letter To Christian Type ‘A’ Men.
Great post Kurt 🙂 When I first started in the ministry, I never used to take breaks. I always just served and served without resting. But finally, it caught up to me and I found myself getting bitter.
The Lord had to show me the power of rest in order to fix my bad attitude. I found that when I rest then I’m even more productive.
Yes, exactly. It’s counterintuitive but we seem to bear more fruit when we live God’s way. Thanks for offering that example Peter!