What’s your biggest frustration in life? It may be a long-lasting frustration. It may simply be the thing that is looming largest on your horizon at the moment.
Are you worried that your fridge will explode?
Is there too much month left at the end of the money?
Do you want to be more fruitful in your work but are hampered by lack of resources / unhelpful colleagues / time constraints?
Have you got lots of demands on your time and talents and are feeling pulled in different directions?
There’s a line in the Christian song, ‘Jesus, we celebrate your victory’ that goes, “and in your presence our problems disappear…”
I must be doing something wrong if that song is true. Because that is not my experience. And I would like to know how it relates to Jesus telling his friends that they will be persecuted, betrayed by their family, arrested and flogged, and hated (Matthew 10). I can’t imagine someone humming that tune as they are being dragged out of their bed by the authorities and being whipped to within an inch of their life…
When I have (reluctantly) sung that song I have thought that it is in Jesus’ presence that we gain a different perspective on our problems. In his presence they somehow do not seem as daunting or dangerous. But again the reality is that this is not always true either.
When we come together in church we do not leave our problems at the door, ready to pick them up on the way out after having felt holy and pious for a while. They come with us. They crowd into our minds in the prayer times. They affect how we hear what the preacher is saying. They shape the way we respond to things or people that irritate us or are not how we prefer them to be.
So what are we supposed to do with these things? I believe that God wants to minister to us in them and through them. I believe that he may want to help us gain a new perspective on them. I believe that he may want to transform them in response to our prayers. I believe that he always wants to stand alongside us and face them with us, reassuring us that we do not go through this alone.
When Elijah was at his lowest he had an encounter with God that would make the hairs on the back of our necks stand up and send shivers down our spine.
And the word of the LORD came to [Elijah in a cave]: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken 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.”
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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
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?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken 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.” (1 Kings 19:9-14)
Despite the incredible experience, Elijah did not see things any differently. His response to God’s question before and after the experience was identical. Nothing had changed as far as he could see. But it had. God’s gentle whisper was reminding him that he was not useless and he was not alone. Even if it was true that he was the only one left (and it wasn’t) he still was not alone.
In God’s presence his problems did not disappear, but God’s patient gentleness drew him out of the cave into his presence. Elijah was not alone. The rock-shatterer, earth-shaker, inferno-maker was there with him.
Whatever is your biggest frustration I pray that you will sense God’s patient gentleness and that he will draw you out of your cave and into his presence today. The problem may not disappear, but you are not facing it alone. I have found this to be true in my life and pray it may be true for you too.
Of course we may experience God’s blessing directly from him, or we may experience it through other people. Immediately after this experience God brought Elisha to Elijah as a companion and apprentice. Are you Elijah or Elisha today? Who is Elijah or Elisha in your life?
Be blessed. Be a blessing