“Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left…’” (1 Kg. 19:13-14)
When Elijah emerges from the cave, God asks him why he had been hiding. Elijah then tells God that he had withdrawn from his work because he had been all “alone” and terrible things had been happening. Although it may look like Elijah is simply feeling sorry for himself, I think more is going on.
If you’ve ever fallen short on a project that you had given your best efforts to accomplish, ever failed at something you gave your heart to, ever worked until you had nothing left to give, ever committed to an endeavor that put your health at risk, then you know that no one is at their best, strongest, or most resilient at such times. If you have ever felt burned out, used-up, spent, and wasted, then you know why Elijah is hiding in that cave.
How does God respond to Elijah? He says, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Hazael king over Israel…” (v.15).
In other words, God tells Elijah that it’s time to stop hiding in that lonely place, time to return to the battle, and time to get back to work.
If we identify with the spent and depleted Elijah, I encourage us to see that God sometimes comes to us in our caves to give solace, and sometimes He calls us out of our caves with a new challenge. Sometimes the best cure for burnout is to rest in the Lord, and sometimes the best cure is to hear God calling us back into service.
If we’ve been hiding or burying our talents or denying our work like Elijah because we are spent and burned out, what might we need from God? Comfort or challenge? Oddly enough, sometimes, the most comforting thing God can do is to challenge us to get back to work.
- Have you ever felt burned out, used up, or spent? If so, how did you get to that empty place? Is it because you tried to do too much, because you didn’t share the load, or because you were chasing after things that God might not have been blessing?
- Right now, what do you need from God? More solace or challenge? Do you believe God is asking you to rest in Him or to get back to work for Him?
- Elijah worried that his work for God was over. Do you ever worry that you have nothing left to do for God? Has that worry led you to a dark and empty place? What would help you to trust that as long as you are alive, God has work for you to do?