The God Who Shows Up

K   |   November 9, 2021 

 

God has done some incredible things over the last two years. We struggled and cried out for peace, wisdom, endurance, and strength, and he showed up. God enabled us to cope with lockdowns, uncertainty, church on Zoom, distance from family and friends, isolation, loneliness, and so much loss. We all have stories to tell of how we coped with things that we could not have imagined in pre-COVID days, and we are grateful and a bit in awe of what He has done.

But if you are like me, you are also exhausted, tired out from anxiety, uncertainty and coping and wondering where you will find the energy to deal with whatever comes next.

These days I find myself identifying with the Old Testament prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19. The chapter starts with Elijah exhausted, discouraged, and disappointed. Despite God defeating the pagan god Baal in a showdown on Mt Carmel, the people of the northern kingdom of Israel stubbornly refuse to repent and return to Yahweh. Queen Jezebel even puts a hit out on Elijah, so he flees to the wilderness in fear and despair and tells God he wants to die. (v4)

I have days like that too. Days when I feel stretched so thin by loneliness, discouragement, and sorrow that I feel like I cannot deal with one more thing, and like Elijah, I head for the wilderness to hide. I can't physically flee these days, but I can hide in busyness, filling my days with things that 'must' be done and not allowing myself time to rest and be restored. Or I can choose the 'fake' restoration of distraction, scrolling through social media posts and WhatsApp messages or mindlessly bingeing on TV and books. The problem is that, like Elijah's dash to the desert, they do not bring true rest, and I end up feeling even more discouraged and exhausted.

Elijah doesn't ask God for healing or rest at this point; he is too worn out to even think of asking; his hope is gone, but God still shows up.

Recently my washing machine broke down - it was old, but I thought I should get it fixed just one more time before replacing it. A repairman came five times over two weeks, and each time he seemed to spend hours fiddling around with the machine only to say he needed another part, so he would leave and not come back for several days. By the end of the fourth visit, I was at my wit's end when my household help's son messaged me to tell me not to stress and that he would deal with the repairman for me.

At that moment, I experienced a bit of the relief Elijah must have found as he woke and found the angel beside him with food and drink. God showed up in Elijah's exhaustion in the guise of an angel, providing food, drink, and security while he rested.  God showed up in my tiredness and discouragement in the guise of a young man who sees me as family.

Rested and refuelled, Elijah heads further into the wilderness and eventually lands up at Horeb, the mountain of God (otherwise known as Mt Sinai). It is clear from the language that Elijah's destination was no accident; he deliberately went to meet with God. And so, when God asks him why he had come, Elijah answers with complete honesty:

'I have zealously served the LORD God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.' I Kings 19:10

I resonate with Elijah's sense of despair. He has been working hard, doing what God had called him to do. Nothing has worked out as he anticipated, and he doesn't understand what is going on.

Did you notice it? Amid Elijah's not very mature response, God shows up. This time God was inviting Elijah into a deeper relationship with Him. This God was not the loud and awe-inspiring God of Mt Carmel, but the still, quiet voice that the worn-out Elijah most needed to hear.

Elijah hasn't entirely understood what is going on yet, so when God again asks him what he is doing there, Elijah replies with exactly the same litany of complaints. And again, God shows up, this time with a set of clear instructions that even Elijah can't miss. Elijah is to anoint three men (two as kings and one as his successor), and those three were going to take on the battle that Elijah had been fighting. For a prophet who felt alone, the idea of having companions to share in the battle must have been so encouraging.

Loneliness is often my pathway into discouragement and exhaustion. I don't see anyone around to help and assume that no one will have the time or inclination, so I will just have to do it all myself. In refusing to ask God for help, I take on tasks and responsibilities that are not mine and often find myself alone and exhausted. Elijah and I both need to learn to ask God for helpers, to not assume that the task is ours alone. And when we hit the wall of exhaustion, we need to stop, remind ourselves of God's gracious and merciful character and repent of our pride, knowing that He will show up.

God has one last word for Elijah before he left Mt Horeb. He says, 'Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!' (1 Kings 19:18). Elijah had thought he was the only one left, that he had failed. The problem was that Elijah didn't have all the information; God was working to make sure that his name would still be praised amongst the Israelites; Elijah just couldn't see it.

In our era of never-ending news cycles and information overload, it is easy to think we see the whole picture and let that feed our discouragement and anxiety. Like Elijah, we need to remember that God is always at work, and there is much more going on than we will ever know.

In the midst of our discouragement and exhaustion, Elijah's story reminds us to pay attention to God, to look beyond our circumstances and to remember that we have a God who persistently shows up.

Where is Yahweh showing up in your story today?

 

 

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

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K

K is an Aussie transplant who has lived in North India for the last two decades. Her biggest buzz comes from being able to help others to learn and to enjoy a deeper relationship with Jesus. K can frequently be found in one of the cafes in her adopted home city drinking hot chocolate since real decaf coffee has yet to make its way to India.

2 comments on “The God Who Shows Up”

  1. This is one of the most encouraging and rejuvenating things I have read! Thank you so much for this amazing reminder that our God is one who always shows up.

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