This week, the best friend and I are in a place that certainly can qualify as a little piece of paradise. We’re in the Florida Keys, celebrating one more turn on the earth for her. Although we’ve managed to squeeze a lot of fun into our days, we purposely opted to not squeeze too much into any day. Tuesday was designated a rest day. And by rest, I mean the most strenuous thing I did was move from the sofa to the bed and back again.
At the end of the day, I had slept most of it and was more than a little shocked. I’m not big on napping. Sleep seems like a waste of time when there are things I could be doing. I am constantly on “go.” So, I was feeling a bit guilty that I had “wasted” a day in paradise by sleeping.
Then God reminded me of Elijah.
You see, my home life has gotten more than a little crazy. I work two part time jobs, Keith works full time, I’ve started a Bible study. And we share one car. I spend all day every day working, taking care of my boys, driving or ministering in some way. I don’t begrudge anyone an ounce of the time they require, but I’m tired. Bone tired. And that doesn’t even take into account the emotional stress I’m under. The truth is, I was exhausted and the trip was timed perfectly because I might have run away anyway!
Which brings me back to Elijah. Run away is exactly what he did. Elijah was a prophet who had been charged by God with the task of speaking truth to King Ahab and his horribly cruel wife, Queen Jezebel. Jezebel was bad. Real bad. So bad that her name forever has been used to describe evil, morally corrupt women. She convinced Ahab to quit worshiping the One True God and to, instead, build a temple and an altar to Baal and the Asherah. She maintained 450 prophets for Baal and another 400 for Asherah. As if that wasn’t enough, she also killed God’s prophets. And she had her sights set on the one and only Elijah.
Elijah had gone before Ahab and prophesied that a drought would occur because of the disobedience of Ahab and Jezebel. After several years of drought, God sent Elijah back to Ahab. Elijah told Ahab to gather up all the prophets of Baal, two oxen for sacrifice and meet him on Mount Carmel. The prophets of Baal prepared their preferred ox, laid it over the wood and started calling out for Baal to take his sacrifice. After several hours, Elijah started making fun of them, saying maybe their god was asleep or had stepped away.
Later, he reconstructed the altar for the sacrifice to God, laid the ox on it and had several urns of water poured on it, until everything was dripping, standing in water. Then he stepped back and let God do His thing. When God sent fire to consume the entire sacrifice, altar and all the water, the people saw the truth and fell to their faces worshiping God. Then Elijah killed the prophets. When Jezebel found out, she was mad! And sent word to Elijah that she wouldn’t rest until he was as dead as her prophets. So, that great man of God…ran away.
Elijah went into the wilderness, settled himself under a juniper tree and told God he was done. He couldn’t do anymore. He wanted to die. Then he slept. As he slept, angels of God came to minister to him. They would wake him and give him food then let him sleep again. This went on for 40 days. After that, Elijah went to a cave to hide. God went to him and told him he had more to do. (To find out the rest of the story, including about the end of the drought and how Elijah outran Ahab’s chariot, read 1 Kings 18 and 19).
So often, we get told that if we are bone tired or super weary, then we’re taking on too much. And often I think that can be true. But….I don’t think that’s always true. Look at Elijah. He had done exactly what God had called him to do. But he was tired. And scared. And stressed out. And done. D-O-N-E. Did God punish Elijah for running away? No. He sent His angels to minister to him. He let him sleep. Then God went to Elijah and told him the work wasn’t finished.
So, what lesson is God teaching me in this? Well, more than one.
First, the folks who encourage you to only pick what you perceive to be the most important of tasks to tend to are kinda holding up the “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” thought – which is wrong. He does. Frequently. How else can He get the glory? No, don’t take on everything that every person would hand you. But be careful not to turn down a God assignment because you already feel stretched.
And the second lesson? Rest. Run away. Let God minister to you. At some point, we simply have to step away to gain some perspective. God perspective.
Third? Sleeping in paradise is an excellent way to rest! I highly recommend it!
Be blessed and tell someone you love them.