When We Feel Like Giving Up
I trained to be a lifeguard at a camp one summer when I was younger. I passed most of the tests, but there was one test where we had to tread water while holding a heavy weight for a few minutes. It was difficult, and I couldn’t do it. I gave up. I remember quitting and feeling like a failure. Adult life likewise brings no shortage of things that prompt us to give up, that make us feel like we’re just treading water. This world can be discouraging in its sin and brokenness.
The prophet Elijah gave up. He’d just achieved a monumental victory in serving the Lord by defying King Ahab and the false prophets on Mount Carmel. God had sent down fire to consume the sacrifice of Elijah, while the prophets of Baal had spent all day crying out to their impotent god. It was a time for supreme confidence, but that confidence was only momentary for Elijah. Queen Jezebel heard about what happened and swore to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19:2). What did Elijah do in response? He ran for his life down to Judah. He even left his servant behind and went into the wilderness—near the same wilderness in which Jesus was tempted. He had to get away. He sat down and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4).
Elijah made a death wish: “Take away my life.” Have you ever made a death wish? Perhaps you haven’t made one out loud, but I think many of us have quietly wished we were dead in moments of desperation. I don’t mean suicidal; nor do I mean that we’re simply wishing for heaven. I mean we wish things were over. Done with. We’re tired of suffering, faltering, and struggling. We wish we could leave the trials and difficulties of this life behind. We just want to die.
When Elijah asked the Lord to take away his life because he was no better than his fathers, did he mean he couldn’t continue to live up to the calling of a prophet? Did he mean he recognized his human weakness, and it was simply not enough? Did he mean he couldn’t turn the hearts of the Israelites back to the Lord? It’s not clear. Maybe it was just a cry of desperation that didn’t have a strong grounding in any fact. It’s an expletive, as we might say, “I can’t take it anymore!” Whatever the case, Elijah fell asleep in the middle of the wilderness. But lo and behold, verses 5–7 tell us that an angel showed up. He touched Elijah and told him to get up and eat. In front of him was a baked cake with water. He slept again, and the angel came again with food and water. God gave him strength.