In a recent conversation with a friend, who was feeling a little ‘stuck’ in life and in her faith, I made a suggestion that I thought would help her to move forward. Her reply was, ”That means taking a risk”. To which I said, “Yes it does”. I then I found myself thinking about Elijah, sat in his cave in despair and despondency, 1 Kings 19:9, and God’s question to him “What are you doing here Elijah?”
This was a man who had called down fire from heaven, to defeat the prophets of Baal, in an extraordinary display of boldness and faith. 1 Kings 18:22-39. He had won this amazing victory by taking a huge risk that God would be with him; would honour his words, and back him up with power. He demonstrated what I heard years ago in a sermon on faith; that FAITH is also spelt RISK!!
So Elijah, probably one of the most powerful of the prophets and a big risk taker, was having his life threatened by Jezebel, as revenge for the killing of her prophets, so he ran away and found a cave. In a very similar way we can find ourselves at one moment full of faith and happy to take a faith-risk and then, even within the same day, find ourselves withdrawing into ourselves; hiding from people, and not feeling like moving very far from the spot.
This ‘cave mentality’, as I like to call it, can often follow some personal hurt, rejection or disappointment. Often in life it can seem easier to take a risk, in what can look like an openly public work of faith, than to risk coming out of our cave when we have been hurt or rejected. How often do we say to God, when something has gone wrong, “I’m not doing that again”, or “I’m not going there again”. Effectively we are saying to God,” I’m not coming out! It’s not safe.” And He, I think, would say to us, “What are you doing here …….(Stella)?”
What happened next for Elijah is surely one of the most beautiful moments in the Old Testament. The Lord listens to Elijah’s take on his situation, then says to him, “Go and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” It’s the last thing he wants to do, to expose himself again, so Elijah, it would appear, only goes to the mouth of the cave. Then the really powerful tornado like wind, the rock shattering earthquake and the fire all come and go. Then Elijah hears ‘a gentle whisper’ something like a breath, and only then does he manage to leave the cave and then he meets with God.
He tells God his problem all over again, and then gets his instructions from the Lord as to what to do, and who to link up with. It is also revealed to him that far from being the only one left (as he thought) there are 7,000 who have not gone over to Baal’s side. Elijah needed to come out of His cave to hear all of that and to get the instructions he needed to get on with his life, and God knew that it was His gentle whisper, not the display of power display, that would draw him out. 1Kings 19:9-18.
It just seems to me that when faced with a ‘cave’ moment (day, week, year?) I will stay in my cave as long as I keep ruminating on the problems I have had, or that I might face if I come out. I need to do something more than tell God the problem, I need to position myself to see His power and His might, (wind fire and earthquake) and I need to step out of my cave in order to hear and see His gentleness and kindness. I think David understood this. In his wonderful Psalm about how the Lord delivered him from his enemies and particularly from King Saul, he sings to the Lord ‘Your gentleness makes me great’. 2 Samuel 22:36 Psalm 18:35. NASB.
If, or when, you find yourself in a cave, instead of ruminating on the hurt or the possible future problems ahead try, with thanksgiving, to remember God’s power and glory. Thank Him for those things He has done in your life in the past, or things that you know He has done for others, in the Bible, or in the lives of those you know or have read about. Build your faith with thanksgiving until you have the courage to step out of your cave into the gentle arms of the Lord. Then let Him lead you forward into life again, remembering that His plan for you is to ‘prosper you and not to harm you,’ Jeremiah 29:11, and that Jesus said He came so that we might ‘have Life, and have it abundantly.’ John 10:10.
Remember it is the enemy who wants to keep you in the cave with his lies and fear. Let thanksgiving focus your heart on Jesus, and His love for you, let thanksgiving bring you close to Him so that you can hear His whisper and run into His arms of love. Then what previously seemed like an impossible risk, starts again to feel more like a manageable adventure with the Lord.