There are moments in life when we are so sure of God’s presence and so confident in his power that we believe anything is possible. Yet those are often followed by moments – or even seasons – of fear and discouragement.
I have always been fascinated by just such an occasion in the life of Elijah. In 1 Kings 18 we read of the great victory Elijah saw over the prophets of Baal. Yet a short time later, in 1 Kings 19, Elijah is so afraid of Jezebel that he asks God to take his life. Elijah is convinced that he is the only one left who is loyal to God. He is depressed, discouraged and wishes for death.
As surprising as this seems, I think it is at those same moments in our lives when we are the most vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. Victory sometimes gives us a newfound confidence, though often misplaced. We think that we can handle anything by ourselves. We foolishly let go of the hand of God, believing that we really don’t need him anymore. We later realize that it was God who sustained us and conquered our foes.
The same thing happened to Israelites after Jericho (Joshua 6-8). The people believed they themselves had brought down those walls and arrogantly attacked the city of Ai, only to be humiliated in defeat. They needed to be reminded that God was the source of their strength and the reason for their victory.
Thankfully, we serve a patient God; he is willing to let us launch out alone, but he also knows when we need assurance of his love and presence in our lives. This is demonstrated powerfully in the homecoming story we know as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). The younger son in Jesus’ story believes that he is better off without his father or his family and sets out for great adventure. Life soon caught up with him, and he realized his own weakness. Returning home, the father of that boy runs to meet his wayward son, reassuring him that he is loved and that all his needs will be met.
God responded in the same way to a despondent Elijah. His running embrace came to the prophet in what scripture calls a “still, small voice” or a “gentle blowing” (1 Kings 19.9-14). His fear was removed by a reminder of God’s purposeful working. That assurance helped him get up and move forward in faith.
In life we, too, will experience both the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” spiritual highs and lows. Through it all, we can be assured of this: “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8.38-39). What more could we want?
Tim Parish is the preaching minister at Maple Hill Church of Christ. Preacher's Corner features a new local preacher writing a column each month.