2020. “The year the world stopped” is perhaps how it will be described in the history books. Part of me has relished the slowing down—evenings usually spent ferrying my daughters to all their dance classes, working from my ‘office’ in the car, have been replaced with unrushed family dinners, happy hours and movie nights. Slow Sundays have enabled us to pay greater attention to the spiritual health of our family—and to drag all the kids down to the beach for a walk whether they want to come with us or not (anyone else have teenagers who prefer the four walls of their room?). But while isolation has ushered in gifts of togetherness, it’s also exposed all the things that I was too busy to pay attention to—the things I kept telling myself I’d deal with tomorrow.
Well, tomorrow has come, forcing me to face the places that have not been healthy in our life as a family—that have not been healthy in my own heart. And with this exposing, has come a fresh realisation of just how much I need to hear the voice of God. How desperately I need His wisdom and perspective on the things I find myself navigating; His vision for my family, my marriage, my work and my ministry; His truth to help me stand firm in a world that is being shaken. Because otherwise, the voice I find dominating my heart is the voice of fear. And fear never leads us well.
As I’ve sought to quieten the voice of fear and lean into what God is saying, I’ve found myself repeatedly drawn to an episode in Elijah’s life, recorded in 1 Kings 17-19. Israel had been in drought for three years—not a single drop of rain had touched her land in all that time. Famine had ensued, and I don’t doubt that fear’s voice could be heard loud and clear. Yet Elijah heard something different—he heard the voice of God. Throughout those three years, we are repeatedly told that “the word of the Lord came to Elijah,” and each time it came to him, it either directed Elijah to a place where he could personally receive the provision that he needed, or where he could release the provision that others needed.
I long to be like Elijah, listening above all to the voice of the Father. I want to draw on His provision and carry the truth of who He is with me in this season, and in doing so, shine a light for those who feel overcome by darkness. But how do we do this? How do we quiet our fears long enough to hear the Father's voice? Elijah's story offers us some keys that can help us be intentional about the sounds that fill our hearts and minds and strengthen our ability to hear "the word of the Lord" for ourselves.
THE POWER OF GOD
It was the late 2000’s and I found myself with three preschoolers, an unemployed husband and a mountain of debt. We struggled constantly just to keep our heads above water. Yet in those lean years, we also stood witness to Jeremiah’s words, “Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You” (Jeremiah 32:17, NIV). People loved on us in ways that went far beyond just making sure our basic needs were met, grocery vouchers showed up in our letterbox every month for a year and debts were miraculously forgiven—by the tax department even! Friends helped keep a roof over our heads, and whenever we would think we couldn’t possibly make it through one more day, by His grace we would. God demonstrated to us time and time again that He is outside of our economy and unconstrained by the things that constrain us.
Elijah’s story reminds me of this same truth: God ordered the ravens to feed him (1 Kings 17:4), commanded a penniless widow to feed him, extending to her a miraculous supply of resources to carry out this task (1 Kings 17:9), and sent angels to serve him bread and water (1 Kings 19:5-7). In the midst of drought and famine, God made provision for Elijah and those connected to him. Elijah is not alone in experiencing God’s supernatural provision—from the manna that fell from heaven (Exodus 16), to the widow’s oil (2 Kings 4:1-7), to the multiplication of two fish and five loaves to feed thousands, Scripture continually reminds us of God’s ability to provide for His children.
As we face these uncertain times, we must recount the testimonies of God’s faithfulness—both our own and those recorded for us in the pages of Scripture—allowing them to fuel a continued expectation for more of the same. God is not hemmed in by COVID-19; it has not stripped Him of His power. He is still able to speak to us; still able to tend to the needs of His people; still able to heal and restore. He has done it before, and He will do it again.
Reflect: Recall God’s faithfulness. What testimonies of your own, and of the saints, encourage you in this season? Carry them with you and draw on them for strength.
THE POWER OF PRAYER
I wish I could tell you that recalling the many and miraculous ways God has provided for and worked within our family over the years is enough to quiet the fears of today. But I’ve learned that while the past does provide fuel for the present, I must also be proactively leaning into what God is saying and doing now; learning to look beyond what the naked eye can see to perceive the Father’s activity and purpose so I can partner with Him in it.
After demonstrating God’s power to the people and exposing the futility of their worship of Baal, Elijah turned to King Ahab and declared, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain” (1 Kings 18:41). There was not a cloud in the sky at the time Elijah spoke these words. He heard the answer—the promise of God in relation to their need--before it was a visible reality. But it’s what he did next that caused the sound of rain to become the release of rain. Elijah climbed to the top of Mt. Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees (18:42)—he chose to align himself with what God was saying and to then persevere in prayer.
In Hebrew, Carmel means a garden land, a place of fruitfulness and fertility. In a time of need and lack, Elijah chose to retreat to a place of fruitfulness, and he did not move from that place until he saw the clouds of rain beginning to rise from the sea; until what he had ‘heard’ was made manifest. Prayer—our intimate communion with the Father—is our place of fruitfulness. Just like Elijah, we must learn to climb—climb above the shouts of fear, above the obstacles and lack that surround us, to see as the Father does. We must cultivate time in His presence, time spent in a posture of worshipful surrender, allowing the hope of Christ to inspire perseverance within us while we wait for what God has spoken to also become our experience (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
Reflect: What is the Father saying to you in this season? What does it look like practically for you to align yourself with His purposes?
THE POWER OF REST
In my own life, I’ve found that fear screams loudest when I’m weary. Uncertainty is tiring, suffering is exhausting, and even though the hope of Christ shines bright, standing firm and contending in the spirit, takes its toll. Just ask Elijah.
On the heels of his success, Jezebel made a threat against his life. And though you’d think that after demonstrating God’s power, putting the prophets of Baal to shame, and calling forth rain to end Israel’s drought that Elijah would have been steadfast, instead we read that he was afraid and ran for his life, telling God he’d had enough and praying that he might die (1 Kings 19:3).
It encourages me no end that even the heroes of our faith got tired and worn down, but it’s God’s response to Elijah that encourages me even more. God did not berate Elijah or give him a pep talk, but instead sent an angel to minister to him. He tended to his physical needs, providing food and water and time to sleep so that he could gain the strength he needed to continue his journey.
We are both spiritual and physical beings, and strength flows when we tend to both these aspects. Our spirits are strengthened as we commune with God, listening to His voice and recalling His past faithfulness, and our bodies are strengthened when we care for them well. In the midst of all the demands and pressures we face, we need to be aware of the cues and warning signals our bodies send us and honour them. We need to view nourishing our bodies as holy work. Rest, fuel your body with good food, run a relaxing bath, exercise, get outside and breathe in the fresh air, and allow God to minister to the fullness of who you are.
Reflect: What does it look like for you to enjoy rest and tend to your physical well-being today?
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As the people of God, we are not immune from the challenges of this season—but how we walk through those challenges should look different. We have not been given a spirit of fear, but the Spirit of God Himself, who enables us to walk with love, power and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV). He delights to give us the wisdom and counsel that we need; to direct us to the provision that is needed at this time.
Elijah’s willingness to hear and respond to the voice of God, caused the people of Israel to fall prostrate and cry out, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39). If we, too, will turn from the lies of fear and allow our hearts to hear the voice of the Father, we will be equipped to navigate life in such a way that not only are we reminded of who God is, but the world is too.
What will you hear?