If you listen closely, you can almost hear Elijah whispering these words. Can you imagine him sprawling under a bush or wandering on his forty-day and -night journey to Horeb going over and over recent events in his mind? My whole being thirsts for the living God. When will I come to see God’s face? An angel provides food and water, but Elijah remains convicted by the question that hangs in his heart, Where is your God now?
A lament psalm isn’t simply a sad prayer. It’s a call for help. But whom does the psalmist call upon? Who, exactly, is expected to bring help?
The psalm moves ever inward, from remembrances of joy in the presence of God to the painful questions of the present. Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? It is as if by drawing a straight line from joy to sorrow, the distance between them could be bridged: Loneliness could bloom into connection, and isolation could melt into reunion. Hope in God! The psalm demands of itself, as if by shaking itself hard enough hope will pop out of the desolation in which it is lost. And yet, there is awareness that what is really needed is God. Not just memories of God but the living God.
How often are we stuck in our own laments of self? I imagine Elijah on his journey through the wilderness trying to self-diagnose and heal his lack of faith, when only an experience of God will set his heart right again.
When we lose our nerve or lose our faith, it is easy to become stuck within ourselves, trying to jump-start our faith internally. But is this really what God asks of us?
God, I long for you. Lead me in freedom to experience you today. Amen.
The fact that we trust in God does not guarantee that life will be easy. Believers suffer discouragement as well. Elijah is a powerful prophet of God who faces profound discouragement. He looks around and sees faithlessness and desolation, as does the psalmist wrestling with his own sense of despair. In both cases the person’s spirit is revived—by divine visitation to Elijah and by the psalmist’s self-talk about the truth of God’s faithfulness. The New Testament readings take us in a different direction. Paul speaks of the freedom we have when we are in Christ, heirs to all of God’s promises. The Gospel writer tells of another kind of freedom, the freedom experienced by a man delivered from demon possession.
Read 1 Kings 19:1-15a. Recall a time you ran to a silent place. How did God send you back into the world?
Read Psalm 42. The author asks us to imagine the words of this psalm coming from the mouth of Elijah and the Gerasene man. Consider how these words might be yours as well.
Read Galatians 3:23-29. How does your faith in Christ help you to embrace the freedom that comes from lack of division rather than to flee in fear?
Read Luke 8:26-39. What true story do you have to tell to the world of what Jesus has done for you?
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