Grace Lifts the Weary

"The Avenue," © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

“The Avenue,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2017 Lynn Abbott

“Bone weary,” my grandmother used to call it.

Of course, as a kindergartener, I didn’t much understand.  Indeed, I was the “I’m not tired” kid.

I suppose this is true for many, if not most, children. Even so, bedtime and I became the family joke.Slumped in my chair, head and hair drooping dangerously close to the ice-cream bowl, I was a prime candidate for the land of Nod.

When Mom gently touched my shoulder, I looked up at her from beneath my droopy lids.

“Time for bed,” she gently said.

My back stiffened, and my posture immediately improved. With eyes wide, and a huge grin plastered on my impish face, I predictably piped, “I’m not tired.”

I never was. No matter how late…no matter how active the day had been…I would never admit any need for rest.

I was legendary in the annals of kid-dom. In fact, my parents recalled my entertaining the-avenue-2017-lynn-abbott-studios-with-watermarkan entire plane full of commercial airline passengers during one leg of what became a 20-hour journey from Miami to San Diego.

At eighteen months, I proved I had the power of the Energizer Bunny. Through all the plane changes, connections and flights, I never once slipped into anything resembling a peaceful nap.

Thus was born the family by-word, “I’m not tired.”

But all good things must come to an end, so they say.

You better believe it.  I grew up, and all that “adulting” is enough to wear any of us out…

Work,

Marriage,

Family,

And the endless responsibilities and activities that accompany all of it.

Perhaps, like me, you frequently find yourself saying, “when this season is over, things will finally settle down and I will catch my breath.”  Yet, one busy season seems to bleed into another.  And downtime becomes an elusive dream.

Yup, the adult in me would now pay big bucks for the naps I resisted as a kindergartener.

Even so, I continue to pile more on my activity and responsibility plates.

“I’m not tired” partners with “I do it all.”   And the wheels of the bus go round and round.  Slower as we age, of course.  And health issues complicate things, too.

Uh, huh.  I completely “get” that.  This old gray mare ain’t what she used to be. And I now recall with great empathy my grandmother’s words, “bone weary.”

And yes, it has been one of those weeks, months and years.

Maybe, you can relate. But as is so often the case, a trip to a sunny, palm tree-lined resort may be out of reach.

Of course, that doesn’t stop me from dreaming. However, after I pragmatically considered all my options this past week, I finally settled on what should have been my first choice: running to my heavenly Father.

On this particular occasion, I thumbed through my grandmother’s Bible, looking for much-needed encouragement and rest.

I gently turned the onion-thin and well-worn pages to the book of 1 Kings.  I knew I needed to immerse myself in God’s truth and grace.

And so I turned to the story of a favorite Old Testament saint, Elijah.

Now, there’s a guy who understood what it meant to be “bone weary.”

Elijah, in fact, carried the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Without a doubt, Elijah understood stress.  He worked on behalf of God’s people; he stood in faith against the dark powers and principalities of this world.  He patiently instructed and corrected God’s wayward children.

Of course, you and I will likely never carry a nation; yet, our concern for those we love often drives us, and we may carry burdens that are heavier than we are designed to handle.

Yet, the battles are necessary.  We work to protect as well as to provide for our loved ones.  In addition, we serve our Savior in increasingly, hostile territory.  Through all of this, we do our best to stand for all what is good and true.

the-avenue-2017-lynn-abbott-studios-with-watermarkAnd at the end of the day,  we collapse at our Savior’s feet… “bone weary.”

Twila Paris described it perfectly in lyrics when she penned, “The Warrior is a Child.”

Precisely.

And we long for a “get-away.”

And if anyone understood that, Elijah did.  In fact, in the 1 Kings 19 account, the bold prophet resembles a child more than a warrior.

So what caused a courageous, rugged and outspoken man of God to crumble in an exhausted and despondent heap?

If I didn’t know his history, I’d write him off as weak.

Yet,  filled with God’s Spirit, Elijah commanded respect even from his enemies.  Furthermore, he is one of two Old Testament saints who never died.  God actually sent a chariot of fire to carry Elijah to heaven.

Sounds pretty spectacular, doesn’t it?  But day-to-day life as God’s prophet wasn’t glamorous.  Elijah’s role required that he deliver bad news to a rebellious people.

And since God’s covenant with Israel encompassed both spiritual and political life, Elijah’s responsibilities also included holding the king accountable.

In short, Elijah held an important role as a royal advisor. No big deal, right?

Enter Ahab and… Jezebel.  Yup. Elijah served during the reign of two of the most infamous in Israel’s history.

Scripture reports, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him…” (1 Kings 16: 30).

And let’s not forget Jezebel.  Her name became synonymous with evil.

According to historical and Biblical commentaries, Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, the Sidonian king and priest of the pagan god, Baal.  Not a good start.

Baal worship actually required child sacrifices. And while babies burned on Baal’s altar,  worshipers celebrated through a variety of promiscuous acts.

In addition, Jezebel’s father demonstrated his willingness to do anything to maintain political power: he murdered his brother.

Undoubtedly, little surprised Jezebel.  In fact, she adopted her father’s practices and  sought to establish Baal worship throughout Israel.  United, Ahab and Jezebel essentially “egged each other on.”

For this reason, Elijah’s task proved an extremely dangerous one.  After all, confronting a king who rejected Yahweh and embraced Baal would challenge even the most brave of God’s prophets.

the-avenue-2017-lynn-abbott-studios-with-watermarkElijah certainly lived in the pressure cooker.  But there was no help for it.  God had called Elijah to speak for God. And Elijah not only loved God but he also loved God’s people.  And so despite the dangers, he spoke God’s truth.

For this reason, I imagine that Ahab and Jezebel were not particularly pleased when Elijah showed up at court.

In 1 Kings 18, Scripture reports that Elijah arrived with a particularly powerful message from God: because of Ahab’s evil choices, all rain would cease until Elijah gave word.  In an agrarian culture, drought obviously spelled disaster.

But there was much more to it than that. I’m sure the significance of the prophecy was not lost on Ahab and Jezzie.  You see, many historians note that the Canaanite people believed that Baal controlled the  weather and wielded fire.

Yup.  Elijah’s drought definitely rocked Baal worship’s foundation.  Understandably, then, Elijah delivered his message and beat a quick retreat outta “Dodge City.”    Ahab actually didn’t see Elijah for three years.  And Baal’s prophets were powerless.

As the drought dragged on, I’m sure Elijah’s limited popularity decreased exponentially.  His was not an enviable position:  not only did Elijah suffer through the drought himself but in the eyes of many, he alone bore the blame for the national catastrophe.

Talk about a hostile work environment.

When Elijah next visited court, he delivered another direct challenge to Baal’s authenticity and authority.   On Mount Carmel, Elijah planned to test 450 Baal prophets before a congregation of Israelis.

An altar built with a trench of water served as trial.  Two bulls were placed on the altar, and the prophets would ask Baal to supply  fire from heaven for the sacrifice.

Ostensibly, this would be a simple task for the god of fire.

However, despite the passing of hours–an entire day, in fact– Baal did not respond.

Then, Elijah called upon Yahweh.  And the rest is history.  Yahweh not only sent fire to consume the bull sacrifice but our all-powerful God also used the fire to consume the wood, altar and trench of water.

A huge revival broke out that day.  It seemed Elijah had much to celebrate.

However,  Jezebel exploded.  She sent Elijah a threatening message and vowed to execute Elijah the following day.

I certainly don’t blame Elijah for running for his life.  Exhausted from prolonged confrontation, Elijah just couldn’t face Jezzie’s “drama.”  The battle on Mount Carmel had sapped Elijah’s physical, emotional and spiritual strength.

Elijah had had enough.

The strong, courageous, bold prophet ran.  He found shelter in a desert hundreds of the-avenue-2017-lynn-abbott-studios-with-watermarkmiles away from Jezebel.   Collapsing under a broom tree, Elijah even dared to whinge a little… okay, a lot.

“‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said, ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'” (1 Kings 19:4).

Bone weary despite a great victory for God.

Discouraged, albeit obedient.

Elijah was “done in.”

He may have thought, “I deserve a break. I’m outta here!”

But here’s the good part…

Grace met Elijah that day in the Beersheba desert.

Abba allowed Elijah to download discouragement.  Yahweh carried His child that day.

We read that after Elijah let off steam, he fell asleep.

When he awakened from well-earned rest, an angel provided nourishment.

Then, Scripture records an event that captures the tenderness and grace that God offers His children.

Much to my surprise, God did not reprimand Elijah for his melodramatic complaints.  Rather, God met him where he was.

Just outside the mountainside cave where Elijah hid from his enemies,  a mighty wind passed; an earthquake and fire followed.

Yet, God did not speak to Elijah through the wind, earthquake, or fire.

Instead, a gentle whisper restored Elijah’s weary soul (1 Kings 19:12).  Grace comforted  Elijah. God’s game plan for Elijah not only included rest but also, help for the remainder of life’s journey.

In the quiet, Elijah heard Abba’s gentle and compassionate whisper.  In the stillness, the child-warrior discovered God’s gracious plan.

When all of Elijah’s exhausted his strength, God stepped in to renew and restore with God’s might and power.  Beersheba certainly didn’t qualify as a luxurious resort.  Yet, in that desert, Abba renewed His child’s strength.

And then, God directed Elijah to godly friends who could help carry the load, (1 Kings 19: 15-18).

God didn’t expect Elijah to go it alone.  God provided Elijah with an assistant, Elisha, (1 Kings 19:19).  And together, the two prophets continued God’s work.

As I closed the aged black leather book, I once again acknowledged the grace of God in my own life. Indeed, when my tasks and responsibilities overwhelm me or when life’s physical, emotional and spiritual battles take their toll,  Abba waits for me to come to Him.

No trip to an exotic resort.  In His presence, I find so much better.   In my busy-ness, I the-avenue-2017-lynn-abbott-studios-with-watermarkhad almost forgotten that.

Almost.

But as I dropped my burdens at His feet, I found rest, refreshment, and guidance.

Yes, Grace lifts the weary.

And Abba transforms tasks into treasured time.  He even provides brothers and sisters to accompany us on the journey.

And we do not walk alone.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint,” ~Isaiah 40:29-31

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked… but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields it fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither,”  ~Psalm 1: 1-3