Don't Give Up
Helps for navigating through seasons of discouragement.“I have had enough, LORD…Take my life.”
These are the words of Elijah, one of Israel’s greatest prophets, following one of Israel’s greatest victories. He had challenged the false prophets of Baal to prove their god was real by sending fire to light a sacrifice on Mount Carmel. When they couldn’t, Elijah prayed to his God, who rained down fire upon a wet sacrifice, burning every part of it. Those watching fell down in worship to the true God, and the false prophets were killed.
Following this, Elijah found himself running for his life as his nation’s queen sought to have him killed. The mighty prophet, once so confident, and fresh from witnessing God’s amazing power, felt fearful, depressed, and discouraged to the point that he wished he were dead.
Many can identify with the prophet. Despite past provisions and even miracles from God in our lives, the immediate obstacles in our paths send us into a tailspin. We forget His faithfulness and His character, and succumb to anxiety and hopelessness. Maybe the stress of prolonged illness, financial shortcomings, workplace conflict, or family divisions bring overwhelming fear and discontentment. Here are some reminders for moments when we may be tempted to give in to discouragement.
REMEMBER GOD’S FAITHFULNESS
Though God had proven himself in dramatic fashion on Mount Carmel, Elijah had forgotten the demonstration of power. Alone, and in hiding, he saw no hope for intervention in his current trial.
When faced with overwhelming circumstances, we must remember God’s love and care for us. Dwelling on our problems will bring added anxiety, but faith comes as we reflect on God’s faithfulness in our lives. Can I recall times He provided for my need? Has He brought me through conflicts before? Did He give me wisdom? Can He do it again?
Jesus reminds us of how much our Heavenly Father cares for the smallest sparrow, and how much more He cares for us (Matthew 10:31).
Despite what he felt, Elijah needed to trust God and listen for His voice. In his discouragement, he’d lost touch with reality, complaining to God that he alone was the only believer left in Israel. In truth, thousands still served God, including other prophets, but Elijah’s feelings of loneliness and fear clouded his perspective. God instructed him to stand at the mouth of a cave and watch as He passed by. A mighty wind sent rocks tumbling, followed by an earthquake, and then fire, but God was not in any of those dramatic events. Then came a gentle whisper. This was the Lord, speaking to Elijah. The prophet needed to be reminded of the power of his God, and that He was in control. Yet, as much as God was in the miracle at Mount Carmel, He was with Elijah in his loneliness and desperation, too.
At times God may heal dramatically and intervene in incredible ways in our lives. However, in the in-between times, while we wait, He’s still God. He’s still speaking, comforting through His Word and the ministry of His Holy Spirit, giving us peace, assurance, and wisdom. In seasons of discouragement, we must walk by faith and not by sight. We stand on the facts of what His Word says. God is good. God loves and cares for me. God is near me and will see me through every trial.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Elijah experienced an emotional high at Mount Carmel, followed immediately by his fleeing for his life. He was emotionally and physically spent when he begged for God to take his life. Then, he fell asleep, only to be awakened by an angel who brought him food and water. God knew Elijah’s physical needs contributed to his mental condition and sent provision.
In times of extreme stress, it’s vital that we not neglect basic needs God created in us. Are you getting enough sleep? How’s your diet? Are you exercising, perhaps just a walk in the neighborhood? Neglecting these basic rhythms of life only exacerbates our discouragement. Back in the 16th century, Protestant reformer Martin Luther encouraged Christians to increase exercise, along with Bible reading and prayer, to combat bouts of depression.
DON’T GIVE UP
Elijah begged God to let him die. Thankfully, God doesn’t answer that prayer. In fact, Elijah never died on earth as God later sent a chariot of fire to escort him to heaven. When Elijah made his request to die, God ignored him and instead gave him his next assignment. Rather than giving up, God directly commanded Elijah to get on with his ministry purpose.
In times of discouragement, we must resist the temptation to give up. The enemy will whisper lies, telling us we’re not good enough, we’re not worthy of God’s love, or others’ time. But, that’s not God. His purposes are to give us life. And, He’s given each of us an assignment. When it’s completed, He’ll take us home. Until then, there’s work to do. He has someone for us to minister to today. Who can we encourage, help, bless? Focusing on others allows us to be God’s hands extended, and also diminishes the risk of wallowing in self-pity. Helping others often does more good for us than them.
Do you find yourself in a season of discouragement? Are you facing a situation that you are unable to control? Trust the Lord. Take care of yourself, ensuring you’re getting adequate rest and food. And, don’t give up. If you’re alive, then God’s not finished with you.