In 1 Kings 18 Elijah is at his highest point; in 19 he is at his lowest. Chapter 18 showcases courage; 19, cowardice. Chapter 18 has Elijah as the champion against the prophets of Baal; 19 has him shivering in fear over a “text” message. Chapter 18 takes place on a mountaintop; 19, under a tree in the wilderness.
Anxiety takes hold of Elijah and causes him to desert his prophetic post when he is most needed for leadership and revival. Shortly after a great victory, he is running away from death. Ironically he then seeks death, saying, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1 Kings 19:4). Thankfully God does not answer every prayer of our hearts, no matter how sincere we are.
How many of us have had these moments that make no sense. They cause us to contemplate death and its silence as better than life’s turmoil. Even prophets can experience suicidal thoughts, discouragement, fear, and depression, whether clinical, spiritual, or emotionally driven.
Verses 5 and 6 contain the ingredients for the Lord’s cure to Elijah’s condition. The first stage is physical therapy: God deals gently with Elijah and causes him to sleep. Rest can work wonders to reduce stress and improve mood. Sleep restores the brain, causing clear and rational thinking.
Second, rather than speaking from a distance, the angel touches Elijah amid his loneliness and isolation. Hugging and nonsensual touch cause the release of healthy hormones that reduce anxiety and negative thoughts. Recall the times Jesus touched individuals, especially those who experienced long periods of seclusion, disease, and deprivation.
Third, Elijah is given food and water. As banal as they are, food and water are the basic building blocks of our bodies. This spiritual giant, in his zeal, forgot to replenish his body with basic physical necessities. Elijah spent all day on Mount Carmel without food, then ran with Ahab’s chariot back to Jezreel.
To conclude his physical healing, Elijah is to repeat the first three steps again: rest, touch, and sustenance. Rather than rebuke or chide, God offers small basic needs in the silence of His loving gentleness. On the strength of two meals Elijah traveled the next 40 days, for the second stage of healing: the spiritual therapy of hearing God’s still small voice again.
Perhaps there was a time you were strong with the Lord, but now you are meandering in a wilderness far away. Whether it be doubt, discouragement, disillusionment, or another d word, you might feel as though you are just “maintaining,” wondering what the point is in all of this. God yearns to speak with us again. To help us hear Him, He first pityingly suggests the physical counsel of rest, touch, and sustenance. Then God tenderly repeats a second round of the same. And as 1 Kings 19 concludes, God seeks to revive our hearts with His still small voice. He yearns to give us physical and spiritual strength that we may have a mountaintop experience with Him personally. Failures are mere opportunities for personal revival.
“It is not always the most learned presentation of God’s truth that convicts and converts the soul. Not by eloquence or logic are men’s hearts reached, but by the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit, which operate quietly yet surely in transforming and developing character. It is the still, small voice of the Spirit of God that has power to change the heart.”*
* Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1917), p. 169.