I wrote a post about faith overcoming fear last month after reading Matthew 8:23-27. Just a week or two later, though, I felt it was time to make a decision that I didn’t want to make. After an internal wrestling match, I’m a little less critical of those disciples… Funny how that happens. 🙂
I talked about trusting God, finding joy through discomfort, and embracing the unknown – And I still stand by those words. For the sake of transparency in what is otherwise known as the “highlight reel” of social media, though, I wanted to write this post. Because soon after stepping out… the overthinking started.
Turns out, there are a lot of reasons not to do something when you’re scared to do it. The more you overthink, the more alone, overwhelmed, [fill-in-the-blank-here] you feel. Eventually, you’re lost in your own head and confused about what was at first crystal clear.
In the couple days after posting Riding the Winds of Change, I received feedback from some of you about similar situations you have going on right now. That was so encouraging! How funny that a social media platform that has a reputation for making people feel insecure, discouraged, or isolated became the same avenue for hope and encouragement. In a way, it reminded me of a story from the life of Elijah.
In 1 Kings 18-19, Elijah saw God move through a major victory as the people of Israel turned from the false god, Baal. This victory involved fire falling from heaven, defeating 450 false prophets, and an end to a severe drought. After this victory, though, Israel’s foreign queen threatened Elijah’s life and Elijah ran because he was afraid:
“Then he [Elijah] came there to a cave and lodged there; 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 zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
“So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” – 1 Kings 19:9-14 (NASB)
After such a big victory and alarming threat, Elijah felt alone. But do you know what God’s response was?
“Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” – 1 Kings 19:18 (NASB)
7,000. Elijah wasn’t alone. He wasn’t the only one committed to serving God. There were 7,000 others. That’s hard to see from a cave, though.
I want to be really careful here – What Elijah was experiencing must have been overwhelming. It’s not likely that we’re dealing with something quite as drastic, but we can learn some really helpful lessons from it. And hey, if you have prayed for fire to fall from heaven, defeated a bunch of false prophets, then received death threats from a queen, cool beans. Fortunately, this story still applies to you too.
There were two lessons that stood out here:
1. Elijah knew the Lord’s voice. Elijah knew God well enough to know that He wasn’t in the great and strong wind, He wasn’t in the earthquake, and He wasn’t in the fire. Elijah knew when he heard the sound of a gentle blowing that the Lord was there. If Elijah hadn’t known, what do you think the effects would have been? Maybe Elijah would have thought God was angry with him or too powerful to care about his fears. That wasn’t true though.
2. Elijah felt alone, but he wasn’t – and God revealed that to Elijah after Elijah brought how he was feeling to God.
One thing I have absolutely loved about sharing these posts is the conversation it has started afterward. There is something encouraging about those “Wait, you too?” moments that come from being reminded we’re all in this journey together. It was conversation with a close friend and a well-timed joke that finally snapped me out of overthinking, but that wouldn’t have been possible without transparency in the first place. We need each other – The real us, not the socially-expected version of us.
And for those who enjoy a good meme every once in a while, maybe the journey feels a little bit like:
As we keep growing – mistakes, internal wrestling matches, and all – we can go from this:
To something closer to this:
God’s timing is perfect, His plans are amazing, and His understanding and care for the most intricate parts of who we are and who we were created to be can leave us assured that He’s not making a mistake as we follow Him into what is still unknown to us. It’s not trusting the plan; It’s trusting the God who made the plan. He knows why we are the way we are (as messed up as we may feel sometimes), and He knows how all of those things that have shaped us are redeemed and come together to form a person who can only be the result of a patient, intentional God. We are so loved.
Here’s to the journey.