He was tired. Of running. Of caring. Of worrying. He was just so tired. A sliver of shade from a dying tree was the only place he could find to rest. But it wasn’t real rest. He just couldn’t move anymore. It all had been too much.
Exhausted. Dry mouth and out of breath. It wasn’t worth the effort of another step. He had been faithful. He tried to do what was right at every turn, but it didn’t matter. He followed the good advice and the wisdom that proceeded him. And it even worked for a while. But not anymore. It was out of control. There was no way out. He knew that now. And he just needed to stop. Everything.
The people chasing after him, they wouldn’t give up, they wouldn’t give in. He used to think that he wouldn’t ever give up, and give in. Especially with the Lord on his side. Moving mountains, conquering anything. That’s how this should go. He even had experience with such success in the past. The Lord is great. And everything should be ok, right? Especially when sent to do such a great and wonderful calling.
Afraid. Running for his life. Worried. That he had nothing left to give. Meaning and purpose were sapped from his bones. What used to propel him forward, was now absent, gone, sucking the strength and will from the innermost place.
I am no better. He admits. Than those who went before me. He used to think that he was chosen, molded, and made into a man who could sustain in such a dire situation. But no, now he saw himself, the disappointment that he really was. He was just as vulnerable as all the prophets that went before. He was just as weak as the widows and the orphans that he was sent to strengthen. He was being overthrown by the wicked, despite the promises he thought he believed.
It was too late. He looked upon his failure. He was done. And the journey was so much longer than he could go.
The great prophet of God, Elijah, was given more than he could handle. It is a sobering reality for each and every one of us. That God may allow this to happen. Let us fall beneath the surface. Let us experience exhaustion and desperation beyond our control. Let us slip into a sleep, from which we cannot awake ourselves.
And Elijah doesn’t overcome. He doesn’t get a second wind nor draw on the power from within. He doesn’t hear the right words and put them into practice. He is asleep, snoring. God allows it to get so bad, that Elijah cannot recover. (1 Kings 19:3-8)
But God doesn’t leave him alone. He sends a messenger to violently beat him awake. Aroused from the sleep of death. What a strange God to permit such sorrow and inflict such pain. Kicking a man, when he is down. When he finally fell into rest. Pestering God. Who chases after His people like a stalker. An Angel of the Lord wakes Elijah up. And he doesn’t just “touch” him, but rather punches him. In the same way that the mystical man struck Jacob in the hip, wrestling for a new name in Genesis 32:24. God descends to earth, touching his people, in a painfully obvious way. So much that it put Jacob’s hip out of joint. So much so that Elijah is startled back to life, on the verge of starvation and dehydration.
Elijah wakes up. Hurting, sore, still tired, and possibly angry. Because nothing was different. His situation in life hadn’t changed. Still chased by murders, still laying half exposed in not enough shade. And the temporary rest he had found for himself was irrationally and rudely interrupted. By God.
Get up and eat. Says this Angel of YHWH. With no hope left in his own being, Elijah does what the Angel says. Interestingly enough, he doesn’t bid him to work, to do more, to keep going on the strength that is clearly lacking. No, the Angel feeds him. Bread miraculously given, baked from the same coals that also sucker-punched Isaiah in the mouth. Where Isaiah was also rendered as if he were dead, in the throne room of God. An angel bruised and burned and “touched” his guilty lips, cleansing him for the presence of the Almighty God. (Isaiah 6:7)
But for Elijah, even this wasn’t enough. He laid back down. Eat, drink. And it still was too much for him to handle.
How often. Do we lay back down? After receiving the gifts that should propel us forward. After learning that our trial and trouble are not too much for the salvation of the Lord. That he will sustain us, despite our doubts and failed efforts.
God will give you more than you can handle. But he doesn’t leave you alone. Not at all. And many times, it gets worse, before it gets better. Just when you think you could see the bottom. It may have to go deeper, and darker. Even when he sends a messenger to beat you awake, so that you don’t stay asleep, and forget.
God shows Himself to be faithful. Aggressively faithful. More than we want. Absolutely more than we deserve. But exactly what we need. Elijah lays down. Yet God comes back. We lay down. And our savior is lifted up.
He overwhelms us with our disobedience and unending wandering. He awakens us to the death we have earned. But God pierces the hands and feet of His suffocating Son. And ever since, He touches our lips, ears, eyes, and heart with a new life forward, again and again.
Saying, “The journey is too much for you. I have given you more than you could handle. Eat, Drink.”