Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Happened Under A Juniper Tree

The prophet Elijah was undoubtedly a man of deep devotion, unquestioning obedience, daring faith, and true humility. In spite of these noble qualities, there was one instance of complete breakdown, humiliating failure and defeat. That incident is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 19. It is recorded that he cowardly fled 100 miles from the presence of the wicked queen Jezebel who sought to kill him and sat down under a juniper tree. He was overwhelmed in self-pity, discouragement and depression. Fear and alarm gripped him. He just wanted to get away from everyone else and be alone. His was a self-imposed isolation. He was at "wit's end" and he even wanted to die. He felt he was the only faithful servant of God remaining in Israel. However, God told him there were 7,000 in Israel who had not yet given over to idolatry.

What contributed to Elijah's condition? For one thing, he was overstrained mentally. He had experienced 3 ½ years of terrific tension in his efforts to encourage Israel to be faithful to God. He was exhausted physically. He traveled a 100-mile cross-country trek from the presence of wicked Jezebel. More significantly, he was out of touch spiritually. He took his eyes off the Lord and looked at his circumstances, especially the threats of Jezebel. He had an unbalanced view of things.

Do you ever get discouraged, become depressed and despondent? Do you ever find yourself in the grip of despair? Does fear ever possess you? Does doubt sometimes assail you? Do you ever experience the feeling that nobody understands? At some point in life, all of us have likely experienced these feelings. That was Elijah's experience also. Perhaps the perspectives God shared with Elijah to overcome his despair will be helpful to us as well.

The cure that the Divine Physician prescribed Elijah involved giving attention to the needs of his body. The Lord’s angel provided food and water. God knows our frame and that we are but dust (Psa. 103:14). He knows we need proper rest, food and plenty of fresh air for our emotional and physical health.

Since Elijah's mental outlook was distorted and unbalanced God challenged him to face up to his fears and problems. Despondency has a knack for picking its facts. Even little problems become greatly exaggerated in our minds. But, emotional strength is not gained by constantly feeding the distortions. Expand your vision to see the big picture rather than the small view that only contributes to your discouragement.

God then gave Elijah a wonderful vision of His power, glory and tenderness (1 Kgs. 19:11-13). When we take our eyes of faith off the Lord and focus on our problems it will contribute to depression, fearfulness and self-pity. "Hope in God" is the antidote for despair (Psa. 42:11). Through the psalmist God tells us, "Be still and know that I am God" (Psa. 46:10). No matter how deep and serious the problems may be in our lives, God cares and is able to help us do something about them. "Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord" Psa. 27:14). Don't ever give up. Place your trust in the Almighty who is able to see you through any trial.

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