by Tad Lindley
This is for those times when you feel like giving up. I want you to cut this out and tuck it away in the back of your Bible for a rainy day, or if you have a personal altar to sorrows where you go and look at the funeral programs of friends and loved ones while you listen to Whitney Houston or Neil Young and think you might be better off dead, I want you to hang this alongside of them and read it when you feel like giving up.
Through the valley
We have all heard the famous words of David, former King of Israel, who said in Psalm 23, Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalm 23:4). Notice that the Bible says, “through”. It does not say, “Yea though I set up camp in the valley of the shadow of death”, or, “Though I sit down in the valley”. It says, I walk through. This means that there is another side to our darkest times. Our failures are not final. Our losses are not terminal. God can take us through.
Gonna make some assaliaq and die
The lady thought she was in the valley of the shadow of death to stay. Mentally she had made up her mind, “I’m not going to walk through, I’m gonna sit down here and die.” Her husband was long dead. She had heard the voice of God in the past, but though it had filled her heart, her stomach was empty. And so it was that she told her boy to stay home and watch the house. She took one last walk outside the city to gather some sticks for a cooking fire. Her plan was to go home, make some assaliaq, and die. That was her plan. She had given up.
While she was gathering firewood, the prophet, Elijah, came down the path. “Get me some water. And after that, bring me some assaliaq!”
She launched into her plan for ending it all in starvation.
Elijah said something like, “Don’t worry about it. Just make me some assaliaq. Then you and your son finish what’s left. In fact, God has told me that your flour won’t run out, and your oil won’t run out until this famine is over.” (I Kings 17:2-16)
Notice this: instead of giving up, she decided to try giving out. Her plan was for the people to find the withered starved bodies of her and her son. God’s plan was for her to give out not to give up. When she listened to God’s plan, she suddenly found herself walking right out of the valley of the shadow of death, and into a more abundant life.
The spirit of depression and suicide would like for us to turn inward and cut ourselves off from the people around us. The call of God in a time like that is to force ourselves to not stay alone, but to step out of our isolation and give to others.
Back to the history lesson. Elijah ate the assaliaq and went on to continue serving God, but even preachers can get depressed and feel like giving up.
It seems that I’m all alone in this
It was a spiritual UFC match. The prophet, Elijah was up against 450 idol worshipping prophets. It was their prayers against his. For about five hours the 450 idol worshipping prophets of Baal danced around shouting and praying and cutting themselves, trying to get a response from a statue made with the hands of men. Then sometime after 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Elijah stepped out and spoke out a simple prayer (it comes out to 63 words when translated into English). The Lord of heaven sent fire down almost instantaneously (I Kings 18:20-40). To make a long story short, the ensuing events make cagefighting look like an anger management session with Mr. Rogers. It was a great victory for Elijah and the people of Israel.
7,000 more like you
Here’s the crazy thing. Literally within 48 hours of this mighty miracle, Elijah was alone and suicidal. He begged God to kill him (I Kings 19:4). You see, Elijah thought that he was all alone. In his mind, he had completely convinced himself, “You are all alone. Nobody understands you, nobody believes in you.” It was not until the still small voice of God came to Elijah and told him, “Look, buddy. There’s 7,000 more out there just like you. You are not alone!” (I Kings 19:18) From there Elijah took his thumb out of his mouth, hitched up his britches, and went out and found someone he could help.
God’s bringing you through
The widow was right on the verge of one of the great miracles of God, but she had no idea. She was planning to lay down and die. She gave instead of giving up, and because she decided to help someone else, she and her boy ended up fat on fried bread for the rest of the famine.
The prophet, Elijah, wanted to die. Instead he sought God with all his might, and heard the still small voice that let him know that he was not alone. Elijah left the cave he was hiding out in and the next thing we read about is that he was trying to help somebody else. In doing so, he brought before God the next great prophet of Israel, Elisha, a man who would do twice the miracles Elijah did.
Nearly all of us, this preacher included, will go through depression in our lives, and yes, there have been times in my own life where I felt like giving up and ending it all. There are two keys to walking through that kind of valley in our lives. The first is prayer. The second is serving other people. Don’t give up, friend, seek God, face down on the floor if need be, and help others. He is with you, his rod and his staff will comfort you.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.