You have sung that old spiritual haven't you? I have. The problem is that too often I don't finish the tune. I just stop after that first line.
Because nobody does know the trouble I've seen. Yes, it is that bad thank you very much! (At least that's what I tell myself).
But I am learning! I am learning that when I want to treat myself to a pity party with favorite guests Me, Myself, and I; I must remember Elijah.
Elijah was a man of contradictions. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah was on top of the world. He had just delivered the "knock-out punch" to the prophets of Baal. But in 1 King 19, we find Elijah running for his life -- from Jezebel of all people -- the woman whose prophets and god Elijah had just defeated.
How could someone fall so far so fast?
Listen closely to his conversation with God. Elijah is telling God about all the trouble he has seen. You can almost hear Louis Armstrong's trumpet in the background:
There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He said, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.
1 Kings 19:9-10 ESV
Elijah was ready to embark on a new career as a blues singer, but God would not allow it:
And behold, there came a voice to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" . . . And the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus....Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." 1 Kings 19:13-18 ESV
God's straightforward response to Elijah teaches me four things:
- Life is difficult. Trouble is going to come. This is a recurring message in the Bible. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). Difficulties will look different for all of us, but we will all face them -- probably even today.
- I'm not the only one. When times are tough it is easy to think, "I'm the only one going through this!" But that is not true. God reminded Elijah that there were 7,000 people in Israel that were standing up for the Lord, so Elijah could call off the Pity Party. He was not the only experiencing tough times. I am not either.
- God does care. The Lord met Elijah where he was. He fed him, spoke to him, and let him get some rest. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That means He cares for me too.
- Get back in the game. When the Lord said, "Go, return on your way" he was calling Elijah back to active service. This was no time to be standing on the sidelines. The same is true for me. God wants me to be taking an active role for him by serving others.
I so appreciate the lyrics to the song, "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen." Here is the refrain:
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
At times I want to pause after that first line, but that would be short-sighted and theologically inaccurate. Jesus knows the trouble I've seen -- and he does care.
He cares about you too. Glory Hallelujah!
Note: If you want to watch and listen to Louis Armstrong's rendition of this great song, click here.
Note: Calling Elijah back to active service ... from R. B. Coote, "Yahweh Recalls Elijah," in Traditions in Transformation: Turning Points in Biblical Faith, ed. B. Halpern and J. D. Levenson (Winona Lake, Ind.:Eisenbrauns, 1981) 119. In House, P. R. (1995). Vol. 8: 1, 2 Kings. The New American Commentary (224). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.