Often in the course of life, we encounter situations or paths that, while in it, we feel it may be too difficult to endure. Eventually, upon completion of those paths or situations, we frequently look back in amazement at how we were able to overcome.
Some, even agnostics attest to the notion that a higher power had to have been involved.
During these difficult journeys, a common feeling is that we are alone. Isolated in our despair. Even those that may be around you who are empathetic, and may be helpful, the type of hardship being endured relegates the helpful ones to the outer fringes of our difficulties. Sometimes, because of the nature of your obstacle, as well-meaning as others are, there is simply not much that anyone around you can do.
Prayer declarations from people are encouraging, but still, the despair carries on.
I imagine the influential activist prophet Elijah from the Old Testament Bible felt alone in his despair as he faced a path he felt he could not endure.
In the 9th century bc, the powerful prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel, as depicted in the biblical book of 1st Kings, 19th chapter, had a victorious confrontation where he singlehandedly defeated 850 idol-worshipping prophets in a contest, then had them executed under the authority of Levitical law which called for capital punishment for idol worship.
From Israel's inception as a nation, Prophets and Seers, as well as the Priests, enjoyed prominence in the political structure of Israel and had authority. Depending on the administration, they sat at the king’s table and were senior advisors. Some were even feared by the Kings. So, Elijah was operating in his level of authority within this theocratic government where the Prophets were traditionally highly regarded politically and religiously and some were referred to as, “Father” by the Kings.
The Prophet Elijah did not have this kind of relationship with the Queen of Israel, however. Upon doing this deed, Elijah earned the ire of the Queen of Israel, who was also the priestess of the religious order of the prophets Elijah had ordered to be executed.
This wasn’t the first time Elijah had challenged the leadership of Israel. Elijah was in a regular confrontation with this administration. However, as we in modern times can testify, when you mess with someone’s religion, sometimes that can be a bit much for people to just let go. More importantly, attacking her power and her organization could not go without a response. Jezebel, being the powerful Queen and the high priestess of her religious order, was not about to let one pesky prophet get away with murdering her prophets who were in charge of her temples she had set up around the country for idol-worshipping. After all, Queen Jezebel was accustomed to issuing executive orders and controlling national policy. She was not about to let Elijah challenge her religious authority so publicly and brazenly. So, in her fury, the Queen ordered Elijah’s execution.
Elijah fled the country and hid in the southern kingdom of Judah, in the wilderness, the Negev Desert. There he encountered God. At this point, Elijah had had enough and couldn’t take it anymore. The Queen was known for killing God's prophets and, at least up till now, was getting away with it.
After such a public victory, one would think Elijah would have increased his celebrity status by now. People obeyed him in executing Jezebel’s prophets at that moment when a miracle was happening. But now, the moment of miracle and fame had worn off. People had gone back to their everyday lives and been attending to their normal day to day business. Once the Queen ordered Elijah's death, they weren't about to get involved in that. King Ahab had a fiercely effective army and everyone knew that the Queen was running much of the domestic policy. She could do what she wanted. She had all the power. Elijah was all alone on this one and had to go into exile.
Elijah's Journey from Be'er-Sheva to Mt. Horeb
Elijah was so discouraged, he prayed for death to relieve him of his miseries. He slept under a tree with no strength left in him to carry on.
It was at this moment that God interrupted him from his sleep, telling him to eat that which he had prepared for him. Elijah ate a little and went back to sleep, apparently still depressed and drained from his circumstances. Besides, he had just traveled over a hundred miles from Samaria to Be'er-Sheva, left his servant there, then went another 20-25 miles deeper into the Desert. Of course, he was tired. God interrupted him again, telling him to eat more. This time, God informed him that he had to be strengthened with the food he had divinely prepared for him because he was not finished with his journey. God was telling him that this was not the time to be resting. It is interesting that God would tell him that, because, in the next breath, God said, “because the journey is too great for thee.”
This statement is striking because God was telling Elijah that he had a difficult journey ahead of him; in fact, he said it was too difficult for him, yet, was not allowing him to adequately rest for this journey. God kept interrupting Elijah’s sleep to make him prepare for his long and difficult journey.
I would think that it would be logically sound advice to rest up for the journey first. However, that was not God’s priority. God interrupted Elijah’s sleep twice to tell him to partake of the divine provisions that he laid out for him that would strengthen him for the hard journey that he had to begin right away.
God was strengthening Elijah for his journey rather than removing, or cutting short the journey.
Although adequate rest is often appropriate to be able to carry out our missions effectively, It was God’s position that Elijah didn’t need rest at this moment, but needed strength. It is also interesting that the strength God was giving Elijah for the journey that he told him was too hard for him, was via some bread and water.
Bread and water??
Please God, if you’re going to miraculously supply some food for a journey that you’re telling me is too difficult for me, I would think you would have sense enough to know I need a full spread. Why would you handle me like that Lord?
This is certainly a narrative I have engaged in at times and I am sure that I am not alone in thinking this way during similar encounters. How many of you have gotten upset with God for not handling your situation in the most common-sense way? Stop and think what your words to him were.
Do you know what you’re doing God?
Those of us who know the slimmest details of any of Elijah’s story realize how important Elijah was to God. He was so favored by God, that he didn’t see death, but was taken into heaven. Wow, even Jesus and Moses saw death. Yet, God once had him being fed by a raven, which was a scavenger bird and strengthened him for a difficult journey lasting forty days with only one meal of bread and water.
In that incident, the Bible clearly states that he survived a journey of 40 days on that one helping of bread and water. That is not normal. It is also not physically possible to go for 40 days on one small meal like that. Certainly not traveling for 40 days.
In this current incident, it appears that God is doing something similar. He's ordering Elijah to achieve a difficult journey on two servings of bread and water.
An Acacia Tree in the Negev Desert near Beer-Sheva
By Wilson44691- self-made; Mark A. Wilson, Public Domain,
Elijah was being ordered by God to travel to Mount Horeb, which was about 260 miles from where he was currently in the Negev Desert so he can chat with him, which was the same mountain God used to hang out with Moses at. This mountain was also in the desert and was the highest mountain in the whole Sinai peninsula, and is said to be very difficult to climb. Needless to say, Elijah made it to the mountain on that one measly meal and received orders from God when he got there that eventually changed the course of two countries, Israel and Syria, as well as changed the leadership of the prophetic order Elijah headed.
We must first, realize two important factors undergirding this incident in the Prophet Elijah's life.
One, the bread and water were divinely prepared. This means that God's hands prepared it. So, that's important and that obviously made the difference as far as Elijah's body was concerned. God apparently made sure that he divinely injected some type of turbo-charged nutrients that would sustain Elijah in this difficult journey. This was the second time God used that technique on Elijah. God also used that method to sustain the Israelites in the Sinai desert with Manna. God made our body, knows all of its intricate designs and exactly what to do to turbocharge it's productivity if and whenever he deems it necessary.
Just recently, I had slept for only three hours and had to go work a 12 hour night shift.
So, when going to bed to get that three-hour nap in, I asked God to divinely touch my sleep and cause my body to be rested and replenished as if it was getting nine hours of sleep.
I had the faith to ask God for that because, after all, I was late going to bed because I was working on some things that God had assigned me to do. I woke up after three hours and was very energized. God honored my request and I fulfilled my shift without getting tired at all, taking only a couple of sips from my coffee mug that night. That wasn't normal for me as I typically get tired during the final stretch and have to chug down at least most of my 20oz coffee mug filled with espresso just to make it through the rest of the night. And I normally get six or more hours of sleep before work.
So, at this point, it would be hard for me to even for a second, doubt God's ability to energize our body for a task when we exercise the faith to ask him.
The second point that I think is even more important than the first one is:
God often uses things that seem meaningless to us as the very thing that is the most meaningful for us.
What I mean by that is that there are times in life when we are faced with parts of our journey that are difficult for us to overcome, especially when we see that we only have "bread and water" type provisions as equipment for that part of our journey.
When we look at our measly journey provisions against the difficulties we face, the most immediate reaction is to be stressed. Overwhelmed. Discouraged.
I am here to encourage you that when God is walking with you on your journey, he anoints and injects himself into those measly provisions you have and empowers you with that which you don't deem to be enough.
The problem is that we often miss that. We tend to miss that often our strength that was used to overcome was actually hidden in the lack that we were experiencing.
We don't always see where the strength came from. The same way Elijah's strength came from the bread and water, our strength sometimes comes from the lack that we experience. We don't see that it's no longer lack once God empowers it.
Jesus used the same technique twice in his earthly ministry. The five loaves and two fishes that he used to feed the multitude was equivalent to Elijah's bread and water incident. It was a lack. It was not nearly enough to meet the need. However, God empowered it and used it as strength.
God often uses lack as an instrument to overcome the difficulty.
Jesus used that lack as strength to such a degree that today it is widely preached and taught in so many ways as a tool to encourage and build faith in believers.
God made Gideon trim his army and fight with an amount that was not enough. God Uses the 'not enough,' to become more than enough.
We must also take a lesson in this story that when God strengthens us in his seemingly small ways, that we often have mistaken thoughts that we are not as important to God as others may be. We may feel undervalued. Elijah told God, " I am not better than my fathers."
Additionally, It is easy to feel left out, or just alone and isolated like Elijah did. He told God, " I am the only one left."
Mt. Horeb in Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
Just a few years ago, I remember asking God to kill me, "just bring me, home Lord. I don't want to be here anymore. I am no longer useful to you."
I walked around in that mindset for a while until God refreshed me. He spoke to me in a dream and said, "It's time for you to get up now." It was a divine refreshment where I became instantly refreshed and strengthened.
God has any number of ways that he uses to refresh and strengthen us on our journeys that don’t seem to make sense. We just have to hang on.
I declare to everyone fortunate enough to read this, in the spirit of God, that you are on God’s mind right now. He strengthens you for your difficult journeys in ways that largely go unnoticed by you. Yes, there are times when he protects you from difficult paths, then there are many times God will not remove the journey from you but will strengthen you for the road you have to take. He knows when it is, “ too great for thee,” in his own words. He just does it in ways that we often do not notice.
We must take solace and strength that the journeys that we have endured were because God strengthened us for them in ways that we may have missed. In your present and upcoming journeys, God is right there and faithful to give you, not necessarily what you feel you need or may want, but will give you exactly what you need for the difficult journey. You will get to look back on your situation in amazement that you overcame it. When you do, please share your experiences and encourage others. Remember that the great Prophet Elijah did not only share his victories but shared his struggles with us also. And don't forget to thank your heavenly father for all the times he strengthened you in ways that escaped your attention.