Sunday was a huge day at Immanuel Church. Well, we tend to think of every Sunday as a huge day, but there was an extra buzz in the air last weekend. We launched a brand-new issue of WAIC Magazine, baptized 10 people, and held our first ever WAIC Feast, complete with food trucks and face-painting on our front lawn. Our campus was full of energy and excitement. It was a great day that hopefully made God look good.
But here’s what’s crazy: I went home feeling depressed. Honestly? Most weeks I leave incredible Sunday services feeling blue and incompetent to be leading a church like Immanuel.
I know, that seems stupid. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but have you ever been there? Have you ever had a great victory at work, or an awesome night with your family, or managed to navigate a really difficult conversation well, only to feel deflated later on? How do we avoid that feeling? The answer isn’t that we need a rousing pep talk. It’s not that we need more pats on the back. It’s not even that we need greater victories going forward. In fact, I’m not sure we can avoid the feeling at all. Because that feeling brings us to an important place – a quiet place.
If you were to open the Scriptures to 1 Kings 18 and 19, you’d hear about this unbelievable contest between God and the prophets of Baal. Seriously, read it – it’ll blow your mind. In it, Elijah sees God utterly mop the floor with Baal’s prophets. It’s a contest that’s no contest. But right after this great victory, Elijah runs for his life and asks God to end his life. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died” (1 Kings 19:4, NLT).
How could Elijah, the great prophet of God, after witnessing what he just had, be at this low of a place? I don’t know that there’s any rhyme or reason to the way our brains and emotions work. I’ve tried to figure out my own and that’s as daunting as detangling the Christmas lights. What’s clear though, is how God responds to Elijah’s feelings. Verses 5-9 tell us that Elijah slept and God sent angels to essentially be his nurses. Later in the chapter God wakes him up and speaks to him—not in a mighty wind storm, not in an earthquake, not even in a great fire—a whisper. God speaks to Elijah with a whisper. And the first thing God says is in the form of a question. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (19:13b). He allows Elijah to respond and only then gives him directions for what’s next.
Here’s how things seem to progress:
1) hard work
I love this passage because Elijah’s a great man of God who displays real humanity. Why do you and I think we’re better than that? Why do we think we don’t need breaks and rest and honest assessment of how we’re doing? No one ever said Christians were supposed to be super-humans. One of the greatest forms of worship is dependency. Dependency on God to lead us to victory and dependency on God to bring us the energy for the next one. We simply cannot sustain a God-sized pace, only He can. So don’t apologize for rest. Don’t be sorry you need a vacation. Just be purposed in it; be conscious in it. Allow God to whisper to you and care for you. Be honest with Him about how you’re feeling and wait for Him to pick you up and move you forward.
Sunday was awesome because God was moving in great ways. And for me, Monday was awesome because God was whispering in great ways to my spirit through rest. Fatigue is real, so don’t pretend it isn’t. Find a few minutes today to allow God to care for you. His ability to nurse Elijah back to health was as equally great as his ability to devour a water-soaked altar and all the rocks around it with fire.
After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.