Dealing with Despair
Christopher B. Harbin
1st Kings 18:41-19:6
"I am all alone." "No one understands me." "Nothing I do makes a difference." "No one cares about me or what I do." "My life amounts to nothing." "I'm insignificant." If we haven't said these things ourselves, we have all heard others say them. On the lips of others, they are easy phrases for us to correct. We can see through the shroud of despair surrounding these words on the lips of others. It is when these words come from our own lips that we have difficulty. We can encourage others to see the rest of the picture of their lives and actions, but what do we do with our own sense of despair?
Today's passage finds Elijah on that slippery precipice between great victory, an emotional high from the confrontation with all of Jezebel's prophets, and an overarching sense of despair. In so many ways, he looks emotionally like the classical pubescent teenager, swinging quickly from one set of emotions to another. The indications, however, are that he should be seen as a grown man, an adult who still suffers the ravages of an emotional life filled with both positive and negative emotional events. The greatest of these seem to tend toward a life of despair, even with the moments of great victory like on Mount Carmel. No matter how high those moments might have been, they seem to matter little at the next segment of the emotional roller-coasters we ride through life. If anything, the adage "the higher they rise, the farther they fall" seems to apply in this context.
Elijah had just faced eight hundred fifty idolatrous prophets, and Yahweh demonstrated through him to be real and to spoken through Elijah. They people had been willing to give death sentence to the false prophets, according to the laws given through Moses. All the recent events had led Elijah to be seen as the one true prophet among all in Israel. He was in a position to command respect from King Ahab and from the nation ...
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