We’ve all had the experience of touching the highs and then facing normality, both in our secular and spiritual lives.
Elijah had just come through the defeat of the prophets of Baal and Asherah where he and all of Israel had seen God move in a spectacular way. And at the end of 1 Kings 18 God sends the long waited for rain. Elijah is obviously on a real high be-cause he manages to outrun Ahab all the way to Jezreel. He must have been full of God’s praises – Israel and Ahab had seen God’s power, seen the false prophets defeated, and fallen prostrate to declare, ‘The Lord, He is God!’
But then there was one of the Old Testament’s favourite baddies, Jezebel, issuing murderous threats against Elijah. And filled with the praises of God, confident in the awesome power of God, Elijah does the only thing open to man – he turns and runs for fear of his life into the desert. So low does he sink that he prays, ‘I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life’.
But there, in the depths of his despair, God meets with Elijah and provides for his basic needs – food and water. No great words of encouragement, just a simple, ‘Get up and eat’. Strengthened, Elijah takes himself further into the desert, to Ho-reb, the mountain of God.
Here, twice God asks Elijah, ‘What are you doing here?’ And Elijah responds, rather like a little child, ‘That nasty lady wants to kill me’. And again, there are no words of encouragement, no soothing, ‘There, there’; just a set of instructions for Elijah to follow.
This episode in Elijah’s life is a reminder to us that God doesn’t promise us a rose garden. He doesn’t walk ahead of us, clearing from the way anything that we might find tough, anything that might challenge what we believe. At no time did God say to Elijah, ‘Look, old boy, I just want you to go and have a little téte à téte with Ahab. Don’t worry, everything will be fine, just fine!’
Paul put it so well in Romans 8:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Wherever we find ourselves, from the mountain top to the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us, gently bearing us, knowing well our feeble frame.
By the time you read this it will be the end of May /early June. Our North Suffolk countryside will be looking at its best. The hedgerows will be looking fresh and full of life. Our gardens will be in full bloom.
We will I am sure all be looking forward to a “good Summer”, with lots of warm sunny days, so that we can get out and about. Last year we had the hottest and driest Summer since 1976, which I thought was wonderful, but many people thought that it was just too hot and dry.
But in the end we all just have to be content with the weather we receive, be it a typical English Summer (ie cool and damp), or the “good Summer” that we are looking forward to. Similarly we often just have to be content with the cards dealt to us in life. By this I mean is our job boring or interesting, our health good or poor, our home life happy or sad.
It seems to me that contentment is the key to inner happiness. A continual striving for more money, or more power/influence leads to increased stress and less happiness. The people I have met who seem to me to be the happiest are not the richest but the most content. That is not to say that we should stop seeking to attain our full potential, or fail to make full use of the gifts we have been bestowed with.
We can maximise our chances of good health by the lifestyle choices we make, ie not smoking, taking regular exercise, eating 5 portions of fruit /veg a day, restricting alcohol intake, watching our weight, etc but in the end we have to be content with the health we have and live our lives accordingly.
Contentment is the realisation that happiness comes from within and not from what we earn, or own or from where we go on holiday. Certainly contentment does not come from having the latest “must have” gadgets or tech, especially if this means taking on loans/finance to acquire these items. Personal debt problems are a major source of unhappiness, or a barrier to living a contented life.
For Christians the answer is to try to hand over our lives to God, and to accept that God loves us as we are. So if God can accept and love us as we are then what is the point of all that striving for more?
Some of the happiest most content people I know are certainly not wealthy, have travelled little, live simply and yet possess an inner peace, a serenity even when life is outwardly difficult for them.
I believe that God is in all created things, so perhaps try and take time this June to just stand/sit and contemplate on our Suffolk countryside. Let its beauty inspire you and fill you with transcendent wonder. Then you will find that your everyday problems, (and yes we all have them),will seem less pressing or less of a burden. Getting our anxieties into context is a first step to finding greater contentment in our lives.
Finally I hope that whatever the weather we get in the next few months, wherever you travel to, you are able to make the most of this Summer, and that it will be for you a time full of happy and contented memories.