Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's So Bad About the Desert?

Recently I took a 4-day trip to Nebraska with Chloe. The plan was to reconnect with my favorite teenagers, friends and mentors. While on the plane I took some time to reconnect with God too. I pulled out my Bible and said, "God, tell me something."

In 1 Kings 19, I read about a victorious man who had hit a wall, and was ready to give up. I've been there. There are moments in life and ministry, when I am discouraged and giving up seems like the easier way. Elijah had just defeated a slew of false prophets. He went home, and was getting ready to chill out on the couch with a Diet Mountain Dew over crushed ice. Just when he begins to revel in his victory, word is sent to him that Wicked Lady Jezebel is planning to kill him. (Who hasn't been kicked in the knees right after a great success?)

Fearing for his life, Elijah ran a day’s journey into the desert, sat down by a tree and said to God, “That’s it! I’ve had enough.”

Elijah was done. He prayed for death.

Exhaustion. Defeat. Fear. Simply ‘over it’. Have you ever felt like the combination of everything that’s going on in your life is just too much? I’m a wife, mother, daughter, friend, housekeeper, tutor, potty-trainer, volunteer, counselor...you get it. Sometimes it’s all just too overwhelming. I don’t even have a job outside of the home to add to that list, and there are days that I just feel TOTALLY incapable of doing it all. Maybe you identify with me, or maybe you have stress at work, issues with finances, questions about the future, conflict in relationships… realities of life. Possibly, just like a cherry on the sundae (but not as delicious), a crisis tops it all. Talk about a time to collapse.

That's what Elijah decided to do...collapse in the desert. Fast-forward a bit in his story and we read about Elijah's amazing (and literal) mountaintop experience with God. It’s totally awesome! The mountaintop is great. It feels good. But does that mean there is nothing to gain from being in the desert? Many times I’ve heard people say that they are “in a desert, a dry place, not hearing or feeling God”. They are just waiting for, and anticipating a mountaintop moment. Don't forget, God’s presence is in the desert too. It is possible that in a desert we can get strength for the journey back from collapse, strength for our trip to the top of the mountain.

Here are some tips from Elijah’s time spent in the desert:
Elijah prayed. Yes, he asked God to take his life…but it still counts! Elijah slept. Rest is important in order to maintain strength. Elijah was touched by an angel. God sent messengers to encourage and minister to Elijah. Recognize the messengers God is sending your way. Elijah ate, and then he ate again. Wow! I love to eat. The angel of the Lord provided a cake of bread and a jar of water. This angelic fare strengthened Elijah for his 40 day/40 night journey to the mountain.

So what did God say to me in that airplane, soaring over the clouds? In short...
1. I'm not the only person who has felt like giving up.
2. Time spent in a desert can be uncomfortable, but God is working there too.

The next time I feel like everything in life is stacked against me and I'm ready to collapse, I'm going to run a day's journey into the desert.