As I wrote in the first post of this series, our family vacations were totally homemade-find-a-roadside-rest-stop-no-McDonalds-for-us affairs. And yes, we did eat peanut butter with egg salad sandwiches (those are not two separate kinds of sandwich ).
In those pre-seatbelt safety days my dad was sometimes able to leave a narrow cubby hole in the back of our station wagon for one of us to stretch out in, but what’s imprinted on my memory is the three of us side by side in the back seat for hours on end, watching America out the window, playing the Alphabet game, Car Bingo, and 20 Questions. I’ve tried to convince John that that enclosed, enforced family time without videos is the key to our conflict-solving skills. However it did mean that we were more than ready to stretch our legs and take a break from “He looked at me funny… She touched my foot…Are we there yet…”
Elijah is one of my favorite road trip stories, and it culminates in a rest stop – something we all need.
1 Kings 19:1-3 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. (Road trip!)
When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (Rest stop)
Elijah wears himself out.
After seeing God’s supernatural display of power in His showdown with the prophets of Baal, and after years of being protected and fed by God, he’s afraid of a middle-aged woman – Jezebel! He runs, not for his life really, but from his life! He’s running from circumstances, not to God. He focuses on circumstances and takes his eyes off God.
But he can’t outrun God. God loves him (and you and me) too much.
Wherever we are on our journey God doesn’t leave us alone.
5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
Just like a cranky toddler, God knows that Elijah needs a snack and a nap so he provides a “Happy meal” and lets Elijah go back to sleep. John Ortberg writes about how Americans are the most sleep deprived nation in the world and says “Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is sleep.”
7 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.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.
The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Elijah focuses on the negative and it’s an exaggeration…distortion of the truth. God says in verse 18 that there are still 7,000 in Israel who haven’t bowed to Baal. What are the negative “tapes” that play in your head when you get down?
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
Sometimes when we’re lowest God speaks softest – we need to lean in close to hear Him.
13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
I love it when we see God ask questions like this in Scripture! He KNOWS the answer, but He wants a relationship with us and a relationship involves dialog…interaction…We are invited into a conversation with the Almighty God.
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Elijah repeats his “poor me” speech. He forgets God in his recounting. He skips over the miraculous powerful way God has shown up time after time. When we get to overstretched isn’t this the same way we’re affected? We lose perspective.
Isn’t it incredible that God can take anything we dish out and is patient with us? He lets Elijah vent and then calmly gives him new instructions.
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.
We lose our balance and our joy when our output exceeds our intake, our talk exceeds our walk, our worry exceeds our wonder.
Bill Hybels suggests an exercise that has been helpful to me. Consider three gauges on the “dashboard” of your life, like gas gauges in your car. Where would you draw the arrows on each of these tanks? Towards the F for Full or towards the E for Empty?
- Which tank do you need most to address?
- Are there ways you can take mini rest stops – a pause to breathe in summer and thank God?
- Are there things you need to say “no” to that are robbing you of the joy of a balanced life?
- Can you share some ways that you take “rest stops”?