“Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” — 1 Kings 19:3-4.
If you had to pick one story in the Bible, is there a more dynamic one than Elijah’s victory over the false prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18? In the space of one chapter, Elijah takes care of idolatry, sparks a revival and ends the three-and-a-half year drought. By any standards that is a pretty good day. But Elijah had no time to celebrate that victory, for Queen Jezebel wanted to kill him. So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.” Elijah fled to the wilderness so filled with fear and discouragement that he sat under a solitary broom tree and said he wanted to die.
Have you ever felt like Elijah under the broom tree? One of those days … or weeks … or years, where you find yourself in the wilderness without the desire or strength to go on. You made some poor choices that feel irreversible. The bitter disappointment from seeing that critical deal fall through. And the discouragement from having your house damaged or destroyed in 155 mph hurricane winds. You work, you pray, you expect visible success, some tangible results only to see everything you’ve worked for fall apart and end in the wilderness.
God knew Elijah needed to be refreshed, rejuvenated, and raised. An angel of the Lord brought Elijah food and drink while he rested. God also reassured Elijah that he was not alone and provided a friend and successor to him in Elisha.
God can redeem our wilderness experiences. Whatever theories we might hold, there is no wilderness so isolated that the Spirit is not there. There is no terrain so barren that it cannot yield the Father’s gifts. With God, it turns out that time in the wasteland is never wasted.
It is there that God does some of His most powerful work. If God has called you into a wilderness season, don’t give up. In that dry, choking place, in that season of barely hanging on, remember God is watching over you. And know he’s using this difficult season to prepare for you things ahead—things sometimes far greater than you could ever achieve without the pain you’re now walking through.
- How can the wilderness elevate Jesus and put Him into focus?
- What can we do at a practical level to increase our spiritual benefits from our time in the wilderness or obscurity?