“What are you doing here, Elijah?” The voice of God echoed down to the man alone on the mountain.
Elijah took a deep breath. He was standing in the presence of the Most Holy! What a weighty privilege… Yet he was overwhelmed by another weight. Leading an entire nation back to God when few wanted to go, being despised, looking like a lunatic for his faith… How did God possibly think he could keep doing this? It was too heavy and he was all alone…
So he answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
– based on 1 Kings 19
I alone am left…
I have been there. Oh, have I been there. I have been the one on my knees telling God that no matter what I was doing, my testimonies of His goodness weren’t getting anyone anywhere. I have been the one who has stepped onto my campus, into my classroom, into my office and felt like I was the one Christian in sea of a million. I have walked into rooms where I have felt like a grandma in my modest clothing and have been in groups where I was looked at like a space alien for not being willing to lie.
Sometimes, being different for God is overwhelmingly hard, and so often it doesn’t even feel like it’s doing any good. And sometimes, it feels as if we need just one like-minded friend to come alongside or we’ll fall apart.
It sounds like that’s where Elijah was.
But he and I have forgetfulness in common apparently, because God has laid out so much comfort and encouragement in His Word.
1. God reminds us we don’t see the whole picture.
Elijah said with such certainty that he was the only one left following God, but in verse 18 God said, “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal [an idol], and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 7,000 other followers of God! To Elijah’s surprise, his discouragement was completely unfounded.
Who knows what is going on behind the scenes in our lives that we are totally unaware of?
2. We don’t always see the purpose.
Elijah was forgetting that God had him where he was to do amazing things for Him. Elijah spoke bold truth to the king, he was part of destroying many of the lying, misleading prophets of idols, he was able to train younger prophets, and he worked miracles through the power of God!
Ephesians 2:10 says that God prepared good works “beforehand that we should walk in them.” In Job 42:2, it talks about how God “can do all things” and Job says to God: “no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” Finally, Romans 8:28 says that God makes, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
God has given us the amazing ability to be a part of His work, and He has already designed opportunities specifically for us. His plan is His own, and cannot be thwarted, and even when things seem discouraging, He is in the background working them together for His perfect purposes.
Elijah was put where he was for a reason, to speak truth to those who had no other way to hear it. The Bible doesn’t tell us who those 7,000 others were. Maybe they too thought they were the only believers left, but were placed where they were so that even more people could hear.
God uses us sometimes in ways we don’t even realize. Who knows who we are encouraging or who we are challenging or who is watching our living testimony or thinking about our words that we would never have imagined or guessed? God has us where we are and with the people we are with as part of His un-thwartable plan for good.
(see number 2 again)
3. God knows, understands, cares, and loves.
Looking at Elijah’s words, it kind of sounds to me like he was almost whining to God. He even sounded a bit accusatory, as if God didn’t really care or understand. Boy, can I relate to those emotions sometimes!
But God does care! He does understand! While He knows this plan is the best for us, He hears our hurts and understands our loneliness and frustration. 1 Peter 5:7 says that He wants us to cast all of our worries, thoughts, and cares on Him. Isaiah 40:28 says that His “understanding is unsearchable” and Psalm 139 tells us that He knows every thought before we think it and that He fully, completely understands us.
God wants to comfort us and to teach us to trust Him. Not only that but we are told that He is the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Even when we feel as if no one around understands us or our actions, we can remind ourselves that God is always there, and His opinion is of so much more value than that of those around us.
Even though Elijah walked and talked with God, and even though he saw the good that God was doing through him, he came to a point of discouragement. He thought he was the only one left, that the work wasn’t gaining any traction, and that he would soon be hunted down and killed for his faith like so many others before him. But God showed him what He explains to us in the Scriptures — that He is in control, that He cares, and that He has a plan. We shouldn’t ever let discouragement drown out those truths in our daily walk. No matter how alone we feel, we are never, ever separated from our loving God.