“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’” – 1 Kings 19:3-4
The prophet Elijah had just reached a pinnacle moment in his ministerial vocation. God had affirmed his ministry and worked through Elijah to bring freedom and relief to the people of God. However, Elijah’s actions brought about a strong reaction from the most powerful woman in the land. The perception of Jezebel’s power had been dealt a serious blow by Elijah and now she was out for revenge. She threatened Elijah’s life and he fled in fear (I encourage you to read all of 1 Kings 19).
Some might fault Elijah for his sudden reaction. It may be easy to wag our finger at Elijah for not trusting in God. Afterall, God had just shown up in a big way for Elijah, surely God would defend Elijah from Jezebel. Did Elijah not trust God? And while Elijah’s reaction may seem odd or irrational, his human emotions are certainly relatable.
Before we make big decisions or embark on a significant journey it’s vital to consider our state of mind and heart. I don’t know anyone who feels like they make better decisions when they are hunger, tired, or stressed. When we are emotionally amped up, there is wisdom in taking a moment to pause and breathe. Some take a moment to reflect on the acronym HALT. “Before I make this decision, am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?”
Being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired can inhibit our decision-making abilities. It is good to address such needs before we move forward on a new path.
This is exactly what God does.
God does not shame Elijah for his fear or his feelings of doubt. Instead, God acknowledges Elijah’s physiological and emotional needs. In the story, God provides food, water, and rest for Elijah. God makes space for Elijah’s body and spirit to be replenished. After meeting these needs God addresses his emotional needs by reaffirming that Elijah is not alone. God promises companions who will stand beside him. It is only then that God calls Elijah to the next step of faith.
We live in an time where many feel as though they are “always on.” Be it the need to constantly check emails, or working multiple jobs, or 24/7 care giving, it is easy for many to feel exhausted. Where is the space to address our physiological and emotional needs?
In this story of Elijah I hear mercy. I hear of a God who understands the load we carry. I hear a God who longs to address our needs in ways that replenish our body and soul.
In Elijah’s story I hear that it can be a holy work to “HALT” and check-in with oneself and with God. Before we step out and face the challenges of the day lets bring our needs to God. Self-care won’t get all of our to-dos and tasks done but acknowledging our physiological and emotional needs will go a long way in ensuring that we are engaging with the world in healthy and holy way.