I am a dreamer. Or at least, I was a dreamer. This year seems to have had a singular focus of ripping away every last one of my dreams. Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic at the moment, but that is how I feel today!
In the past I’ve often been discouraged when the plans I had for my life were derailed or when the great expectations I created for a situation failed to happen. I’m sure I’m not the only one to experience this disappointment on a whole new level in 2020. Discouragement isn’t even a valid word for this. Melancholy. Despair. Depression even. Those are much more apt.
The last few days have been particularly hard. I’m sure it’s partly the coming election, partly the monotony and loneliness of life in a pandemic, and partly the weight of financial stress right now. It’s all collided into a perfect storm of fear, anger, and sadness. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of looking on the bright side until recently (at least, I’ve tried really hard!). Now I’m having a difficult time seeing anything but the gloom. My mind continues to inform me that this too will pass, but my heart is struggling to see past the deluge of sorrow.
As it so often happens, though, God knew just how to reach me in the midst of this storm. I’ve been reading through I Kings and just recently came upon one of my favorite parts of the Old Testament – the stories of Elijah. Today’s reading brought me to God’s great performance on Mount Carmel (chapter 18). Elijah must have been feeling pretty good after God’s magnificent display and his subsequent victory over the false prophets. The drought ended, the people saw God’s goodness and might, and the wicked King Ahab showed signs of possible spiritual restoration.
But just as a new day seemed to be dawning in Israel, Ahab’s infamous wife Jezebel issued a death warrant for God’s anointed prophet. Elijah fled into the wilderness where he hoped to meet his end. In I Kings 19:4, he proclaimed: “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” He’s at the end of his rope! He feels he can’t take any more disappointment. This isn’t what he expected after God’s great triumph. He doesn’t understand what else is to be accomplished, and he feels completely and utterly alone.
Twice during this pessimistic period in the wilderness God asks him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Twice he answers: “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
Can you identify with Elijah’s emotions here? Isolated, despondent, feeling entirely doomed. Though I can’t equate my current circumstances to the prophet’s, I can certainly relate to his feelings. And I doubt it’s much of a risk to suppose there are others out there also feeling alone and disheartened today.
Elijah’s life did not end with this episode in the wilderness. God still had much more planned for him. Think of all Elijah would have missed out on if God had granted his request to take his life. Most notably, he would have missed out on one of the most intriguing departures from this world recorded in scripture! (See II Kings 2 for that amazing story!)
Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel…I Kings 19:18 (NKJV)
Instead of granting his request, God revealed to Elijah what was previously unknown to him: “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:18) God also informed Elijah that He had much more work for him to do, including anointing two future kings and his spiritual successor, Elisha. His life was still precious and still important.
If you are feeling disappointed and discouraged this morning, please know that God views your life as precious. You are and always will be important. We can never see more than what is revealed to us in the moment. Or in other words, we don’t know what we don’t know! I am certain that God has more in store for your life than what you see and know today.
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.Psalm 55:22 (NIV)
One last thing stuck out to me as I was reading today. The notes in my study Bible (Nelson Study Bible, NKJV, 1997) include an interesting comment on verse 18: “Although in each generation there are great spiritual leaders who do the work of God, there is a community of God among everyday people whose lives are not spectacular but who live faithfully for God.” I often feel disheartened that my life is not “spectacular” in my own estimation. Today God reminded me that just like those 7,000 mentioned in I Kings 19, I have a role to play in His family and in His will for this earth if I just live faithfully for Him. What a privilege that is to be one among the community of God!
I know without a doubt that my dreams for my life are nothing compared to the plans God has for me. And I know this is true for every one of His followers. He is the Author of all good things. I don’t believe God causes our pain and suffering in this life – that is all brought on by Satan, our own sin, and chaos that comes with a fallen world. I do believe, however, that when we face the reality of shattered dreams and broken hearts, God will sustain us and will work to bring about His good and perfect will in the end. That is the foundation of my unbreakable joy today and every day.
I leave you with the first few lines of Lauren Daigle’s song “Trust in You:”
Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You seeSongwriters: Lauren Daigle / Paul Marbury / Michael Farren
Trust In You lyrics © DistroKid, Essential Music Publishing
What dream is God asking you to let go today? Letting go is not the same as giving up. It just means we’re trusting Him, believing in His goodness, and that we truly mean it when we say “I want what you want, Lord, and nothing less.”