“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24.
When we find that we have no way out it, may be necessary to turn and go back the way we came. This idea is illustrated by a story in the Bible on the prophet Elijah.
Elijah, the prophet, was sent by God to steer the people of Israel back to God. Elijah had just finished a match of “anything you can do I can do better” with four hundred and fifty of Ahab’s prophets of Ba’al. He challenged these prophets to call on their God Ba’al to set a pile of wood on fire. They tried their best, but to no avail. So Elijah pours buckets of water on the wood. He calls on the name of Yahweh and everything bursts into flames. Yahweh is shown to be the true God. The four hundred and fifty prophets are executed. Ahab’s wife Jezebel sends a messenger to Elijah and tells him that he is as good as dead. Even after a demonstration of God’s awesome power, Elijah flees to the border out of fear and the desert out of the clutches of Jezebel.
Elijah escapes to the desert and he’s all alone. He wanders for a day and falls asleep under a single shrub–even the tree is all alone in the desert. Sometimes we feel like we too are in the desert and there is no way out for the situation we find ourselves in. But then we discover God’s power to sustain and carry us.
Elijah still had a problem. Israel had still turned its back on God and God’s ways. And he’s still in the desert because he failed. That may sound familiar. We all have failures or temporary setbacks that can make it difficult to move on. In addition, we can only stand life in the desert for so long. What’s the use of trying if there is no way out.
God asks a question: “…what are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13) He may have failed, he may fear that there’s still no easy way out. But God still begs the question–what are you doing here Elijah? Elijah just can’t seem to take a hint. So God clarifies things. “Go,” says Yahweh. “Go back on the same way you came…” God sends Elijah back into the thick of it with no real certainty of any change, other than a word from God. Go back into the life that you fled. I am not done yet. I have work yet to do. It’s not all about you. It’s not all up to you. I am not done with you, yet.
“Go back the way you came.” This was God’s word to Elijah. Sometimes God says the same thing to us. That sounds simple but far from easy. For one thing the steps that led you to where you are today might have been very painful. Going back and revisiting those steps may be the last thing you want to do. But even though it may be hard, the promise that gives strength for the journey is that you can find your way back. The desert is not the end of your story. You can find your way out and your way back.
What would it mean for you to “go back the way you came?” What steps do you need to retrace and what might you find once you do that? We may find ourselves in a wilderness caused by bad financial, moral or physical decisions. It may seem like there is no way out. We are where we are and that is all there is to it. But that is not all there is to it. God will sustain us in the wilderness. We may have given up on ourselves but God has not given up on us. He provides us the way out. God’s power will sustain and carry us regardless of where we find ourselves.
- If you were stranded in the wilderness, what would you want in your survival kit?
- Wouldn’t it be great to have a “wilderness” survival guide for the tough times we go through? Is the Bible your survival guide?
- Have there been times in your life when you’ve said those words: “I’ve had enough, Lord.” Describe that time, and how you dealt with it.
- How would your life change if you heard from God every day? How do you think it would change our church?