Elijah’s Weakness

1 Kings 19:4“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”

 As with so many other figures in Scripture, we can learn much from not only their triumphal moments but also in times where their humanity is showcased. The great prophet Elijah is such an example. Depression is as common a malady for us today as it was back in Elijah’s time. We want to think someone as great as Elijah was would not be susceptible to such a thing, but he was after all, just a man (James 5:17). Like us, his strength was not of nature, but rests solely in God.

Like most prophets of God, Elijah faced abject disappointment over Israel’s refusal to turn from their wicked ways. Unable to tear Ahab away from the grip of Jezebel, he found himself fleeing from certain death and prayed to God to take his life from him.

In this example, we see how unwise our prayers can be when we are so downtrodden. It is seldom right to pray to die; that matter is best left with God; we may not destroy our own lives, nor ask the Lord to do so. We have no idea of what is in store for us in this life, nor did Elijah. We may yet see the cause prosper and ourselves successful. Elijah had lived a life of immense power from God, performed many miracles, and was favored by the Lord so much that the chariots of God awaited him in the future (2 Kings 2:11). He would not allow Elijah to die in this manner.

Notice God’s tenderness towards the prophet. He allowed him to sleep: this was better than medicine, or inward rebuke, or spiritual instruction; He fed him with food convenient and miraculously nourishing; He made him perceive angelic care. “An angel touched him.” Further, He allowed him to tell his grief (see 1 Kings 19:10): this is often the best relief. He stated his case, and in so doing, eased his mind. How many of us can relate to this? Often, just by expressing our frustrations openly, we feel so much better.

God was not done with Elijah; He had more to teach him, and had more work for him to do--most notably to seek out his helper and successor Elisha. Yet Elijah at this point seemed much like Jonah, dissatisfied with the Almighty, hoping to escape the present sufferings through death’s portal. But somewhere within Elijah’s depth of pain, a faint light in his heart allowed God to comfort him and strengthen him once again, perhaps through a remembrance of his triumph at Carmel.

We should recognize in this story the providence of God. When we seek our own solutions to life’s burdens, we circumvent the One who can help us most of all. Here we see a great prophet like Elijah falling victim to a weakness so many of us bear, and in so doing we see a glimpse of the tender mercy of our Father when we are brought so low. Certainly, God could have prevented all of this from entering Elijah’s life but had He done so, such a wonderful story of redemption would have been lost. To God be the glory, for His strength is made manifest in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).