by Rebekah Leavell
Fatigue. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual.
After a year of a global pandemic filling the news headlines and constant turmoil and division, both in the media and personal relationships, it seems that fatigue is the universal emotion of the moment. Regardless of individual personal beliefs and opinions on the various topics at hand, many are feeling significant levels of fatigue.
It’s Enough, O Lord!
As I have personally been working to process through things one day at a time, one particular account from the Old Testament has been in the back of my mind throughout the entire past year. I Kings 18-19 shares the story of Elijah, the prophet, and his epic showdown on Mt. Carmel against the false prophets of Baal. God showed up in a mighty way to defeat the false prophets resulting in the people falling on their faces and declaring,
“The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
Immediately after this miraculous act of God, Elijah found himself running for his life. Queen Jezebel was furious when she heard the report of what had happened and vowed to end Elijah’s life.
Elijah had long been living a life on the run, but God had commanded him to show up in front of the nation, and he had obeyed. One amazing event where God arrived on the scene in power and it still resulted with Elijah running over 100 miles south and then an additional day’s journey into the Negev desert to escape her hand. Exhausted and winded, Elijah cries out to God,
“It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
Exhausted from extreme spiritual, emotional, and physical fatigue, Elijah fell dead asleep under a tree.
What has stuck with me in this passage is the way God responds to Elijah and his prayer. First off, God sends an angel to serve Elijah’s physical needs of food, water, and rest. God gives Elijah all the sleep and refreshment he needs to sustain the long journey he takes to Mt. Horeb. Only at that point, on the mountain, does God finally verbally engage with Elijah. I love this scenario because Elijah is completely honest with God in where he is at, and we get to see how human he really is. When God asks Elijah why he’s traveled there to talk to God on the mountain, Elijah tells God how faithful he has been through everything, and how he is the only one left who is still faithful.
This is where, if it were even the nicest of us responding to Elijah, we might respond with, “Um…Elijah? Umm…yeah, remember in just the last chapter how all those Israelites fell on their faces to worship God? Umm…and not to get nitpicky, but just a few verses before that, you talked to Obadiah who had remained faithful to God through everything. I mean, he straight up told you that. Did you forget about those recent instances? Why do you say you are the ONLY one left? You kinda seem a bit whiny, Elijah.”
Others of us would likely thunder the truth at Elijah as we would think God would do to him. I mean, the guy really needs to stop being so self-absorbed and get his head screwed back on straight to look at the facts.
Well, God does thunder, but not as we would expect. He gives Elijah a great show of power with a demonstration of wind, earthquake, and fire on the mountainside. Yet, in every case, God was not to be found in them. However, in the quietness of a whisper, Elijah heard the voice of God once again asking him why he’s there.
God had shown Elijah that He controlled all the elements by His power, but still He was as close to Elijah as a whisper. He was not far off and impersonal but near. He was right there willing to listen. Elijah responds to the question the exact same way as he had the first time. This time, in that “still, small voice,” God gently gives him instructions to carry out, and each one of them considers Elijah’s fatigue and loneliness. It was not until after God made sure the true cry of Elijah’s heart was heard and addressed that He let Elijah know that there were 7,000 others who had remained faithful through it all as well. He knew and understood that what Elijah needed primarily was not just facts and impersonal statistics but to lovingly listen to the true cry of his heart.
The first thing God sent Elijah to do is to meet a new protégé who he would begin to mentor as his replacement. To the end of Elijah’s ministry, Elisha would never leave Elijah’s side. That was a true gift from the heart of God to the heart of Elijah.
Are you Exhausted?
If you are struggling with fatigue of body and/or spirit and feeling the weight of loneliness, remember the compassion of your God:
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14
As God did for Elijah, first make sure you are getting rest, food, and water! He knows our physical needs.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Matthew 6:31-32
God not only cares for your physical needs, remember that God sees and hears in your struggles. Although He could show up in a whirlwind to show you of His power, He remembers us in our weakened state and chooses quiet tenderness. He doesn’t talk down to your heart but engages with you right where you are. He knows exactly what your heart is truly crying out even when others might fault you for your choice of words.
If you would like someone to walk alongside you as you seek to process through all the various forms of fatigue you may be experiencing, please don’t hesitate to contact Biblical Counseling of Arizona. Our counselors seek to reflect God’s heart as they care for the whole person and seek to listen and love in care and compassion.
For Further Study:
Too Tired to Care – By Sandy Bacon
I’m Exhausted – by David Powlison
Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture – by David Murray