In my home church, we have been talking about Reconnecting. How to get back in sync. How to reconnect with His presence His will and His direction for our lives. There are many reasons for becoming disconnected from God; but we are going to focus on one of them today - being battle weary or overwhelmed. Sometimes the cares and burdens of this world get in the way of our having true communion with God. This is not something that just happens to the new believer. The battle-hardened saint is many times more susceptible to this kind of spiritual attack. We can get so busy doing the work of the church that we can lose the strength of our connection with God- the head of the church. Make no mistake this is a spiritual attack. This is the enemy coming in when you are at your most vulnerable trying to make you fall.
How does this happen? We can become disconnected when we are battle weary. You weren’t distracted, you were following God’s instructions. You were told to stand for Him in a particular spiritual battle. You have done your job. The battle is over and God has won. But you are depleted. Worn out. You need refreshing and you can’t get the well fast enough. It is when you are in this vulnerable state that the attacks of the enemy are more potent.
Turn with me to 1st Kings chapter 19 and let’s meet my stressed out buddy Elijah. Elijah was a great prophet by had instances of stress and intense spiritual warfare. (God could trust him) We are meeting him after what was possibly the greatest spiritual victory of his prophetic career - The Lord’s victory at Mt. Carmel over the prophets of Baal. (You know it's big when this is the story that gets illustrated in Uncle Arthur Maxwell’s stories books)
Elijah has been standing for God in this one battle for three years . Commanding drought after Ahab and Israel‘s disobedience in worshipping Baal. Three years of standing brings us to the climax at mount Carmel. The atlars are built. The choice of who to worship is made. Yahweh shows up by fire and burns His sacrifice to the ground while Baal and his prophets can do nothing. The people return to The Almighty and Baal’s prophets are slaughtered and rain is on the way.
What a moment! After this Elijah should be riding high, Right? Look closer. You can’t tell from the outside that he has left all of his strength on the battlefield. Those around him have no idea that the Glory to do the work has lifted and in your own strength the slightest wind could blow you over. This is where Elijah is in this moment. The enemy senses an opportunity and sends Jezebel to blow Elijah over. With one message, Elijah was on the run.
-You’re a dead man.-
That’s all it took. Because Elijah is depleted and can’t get to well fast enough. This first thing you need to do when you are depleted like this is to separate yourself from the source of your stress so you can regroup. Elijah does this, though it does not appear to be a tactical decision. He is disoriented and running for his life. Elijah is running and it seems as if he does not have direction. Not quite so. Elijah heads to the wilderness near Beersheba. Beersheba is in the southern desert region of Israel. Its name means “well of the oath” for it was here that Abraham made an agreement with Abimelech over ownership of the well there. Whether Elijah realized it or not he was headed in the right direction. He was headed for a place where he could be refreshed.
That brings us to the next key to reconnecting if you are overwhelmed or depleted. Once you have separated from the source of your stress- seek a safe space. When I say seek a safe space, I do not necessarily mean find a spa or a hotel to be pampered. Seek a place where God can refill you. For the truth is you cannot fill yourself. Stepping back and finding a safe space is an acknowledgement that you are not battle-ready right now and that is okay. It is alright to say, ”I am not okay.”
Elijah went from the mountain top to rock bottom and asking to die in the course of a day. It was what he heard that turned his exhaustion into depression. Your safe place needs to be a place where the promises of God are reinforced for you. Where God can breathe back into you His life-giving strength. Elijah needed a place where he could be refreshed and reconnect and God placed him under a juniper tree.
1 kings 19:4-8 -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. 5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. 6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. 8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.” (King James Version)
Locations are not given in scripture at random. Not even a tree. Elijah is noted to have been place under this juniper tree. Why is this here? Why this tree? Juniper in this text is actually an incomplete translation. The juniper with berries that we are familiar with is not found in this area of the world. The tree Elijah is under is known as the Spanish broom tree. It is a shrub that grows up to 8 feet high and offers shade in desert places. Why is our stressed out man here? Because the flowers of this tree have special properties. The scent from these yellow flowers lowers heart rate. The essential oil from this plant is so strong that is not used in modern herbal formulations for treatment. It cannot be digested and it cannot be used in large doses as it is can be considered toxic. The only way to use this natural medicine was to breathe it in.
Elijah was under the care of the Master Physician who knew just how to dose him. All Elijah had to do was breathe. When we are stressed. When we are overwhelmed We are not alone. God is right there waiting to make provision for us so we can reconnect with Him. But first He had to calm Elijah down. Elijah is under this tree to keep his heart for failing him from overwhelming fear.
The next step to reconnecting when you are overwhelmed is to rest. Rest in God. Breathe His rest in. Exchange your stress for His rest. When think we have to do something in order to rest. Not so. God has already made provision to restore you, just like He did Elijah. God knew what was going to happen before the first instruction was given. And in Elijah’s lowest moment God sent reinforcements. An angel kept watch over Elijah the entire night. He woke him up and fed him at intervals to bring back his strength. An angel got assigned to cook for Elijah!
We he got up from this rest, Elijah was able to run. Not from his problems, but forty days toward Mt. Horeb- toward God - where He could obtain instruction. These instructions would make out the framework of the remainder of Elijah’s spiritual career. But he could not have received them until he was refreshed.
When we are refreshed. God will be able to speak instruction to us too. But first we have to let Him nourish our battle-weary souls. Breathe In. Rest in him and be refreshed.