Finding Hope after Despair

Finding Hope after Despair March 6, 2023

Image by WOKANDAPIX from Pixabay

And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” – Elijah to God. 

Elijah, God’s Prophet

During the Old Testament, the people of God had a massive problem cycling through their sins. They would go from being blessed- to complacency- to sin- to repentance- to being blessed, and so on. 

During the era when the Israelites had kings, the kingdom generally did as the king did:

If the king served God, then the people served God. 

If the king chased after foreign gods and idols, so did the people. 

King Ahab was very skilled at NOT serving God. Trust me–He was a pro! Throughout the ages, Ahab did more to provoke God’s anger than any other king before him. To top it all off, Ahab and his queen, Jezebel, worshipped Baal in direct competition with God. 

Theological Showdown

God called on Elijah to pray that there would be a drought. Baal was called the Lord of Rain and Dew. Therefore, when Elijah tells Ahab there will be no more rain or dew, the implications are enormous; it directly challenges Baal’s sovereignty and power! It is a “theological showdown,” and God is about to demonstrate the uselessness of worshiping Baal. However, before we grow too judgmental of the ancient Israelites, let’s stop and think about our world and where we see (and even experienced) the worship of false gods.

One thing that I saw revealed during the midst of the pandemic was how helpless everyone felt. The rich and the poor alike really had no idea what to do. And in the dark moments, people even declared that the old (or any infirm) should be willing to die to keep the economy going. America shut down for two weeks, but by our actions and words, we demonstrated our worship of capitalism rather than God. Some pockets of people turned to God, but the lasting impact on me was that America would turn to its bank account before its prayer closet. So let us not be too arrogant when speaking of the Ancient Israelites. 

God Wins

Three long years of no rain or dew, and God speaks to Eliah. It is time to gather the people of Israel and have the “theological showdown” between the Lord God and Baal, the Lord of Rain and Dew. After much deliberation, the construction of two altars (even bodily harm), and a little taunting, Baal does not show up. The Lord of Rain and Dew had failed those who worshipped at his altars.

God, the true Lord of His people, prevailed. Elijah prays, and fire falls from the sky! The priests of Baal are captured and killed. Then Elija brings King Ahab to a cliff and prays, and it starts to rain again. Victory parade, here we come!! Except it does not happen. Jezebel is enraged. Elijah killed her priests, and she vows to do the same to Elijah with great haste. 

Elijah Runs

And at this point, Elijah does the most human thing he can. The person who shut the heavens, prayed for fire to consume an altar, and even brought a dead child back to life ran. When I was much younger, I did not understand. Elijah had prayed, and miracles had happened. One threat from an earthly, corrupt queen, and he runs. What are you doing, Elijah – why didn’t you pray? What is it that God couldn’t do?

Elijah was afraid, so he ran. I am older now, so I find comfort that even Elijah had a breaking point. Elijah ran because he thought that he was alone. He believed he was the only one still standing for God, and the full strength of the government was hell-bent on destroying him. During these times, Elijah seemed to feel despair and maybe even felt God had abandoned him. 

It is at this moment Elijah prayed to God that he might die. Elijah was afraid and felt alone, which was not a good combination. It’s not a good combination for anyone! Elijah was not alone. God had never abandoned him. But Elijah was drowning in despair. 

Life will fall apart.

Throughout our life and our walk with God, we will have “top of the mountain” moments and “bottom of the valley” moments. It’s inevitable; God has never promised us anything different. Isn’t it true that everything falls apart at one point or another? No matter how hard we try to avoid it, it will happen to all of us eventually. For example:

⦁someone says something or does something that cuts you to the core (and you feel hurt or betrayed)

⦁you find out awful news about your health or the health of someone you love

⦁it’s the loss of income for your family

⦁it’s infidelity in your marriage

One moment you had dreams and plans. You were feeling on top of the world, and everything crashed. Maybe you even felt abandoned by God. Perhaps you still do. However, God does promise He will be with us in our times of need as He sends the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, counselor, and guide.

What can you do?

So what do you do if you are drowning (like Elijah) in despair? There are no easy answers,  but I can tell you what I do that helps me. First, when I feel at the end of my rope, I reach out to friends and ask them how I can pray for them. My struggle reminds me that people around me are also struggling, so I want to be an encouragement. It is helpful that most friends return the question and ask how they can pray for you. Second, practice the discipline of thankfulness. You will find it hard to count your blessings and nurse despair simultaneously. You may need to speak to your soul about the blessing Jesus promised never to leave or forsake us. No matter what you feel, Jesus is there; He promised he would be. 

Here is one final piece of spiritual advice. Do not be afraid and alone. Find people who will love you and encourage you. Find people you can love and nurture. And find peace in knowing that is enough. 


About Paul Tanner
Experienced Pastor has demonstrated a history of working in the religious institution industry, skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Preaching, Singing, Youth Ministry, and Community Outreach. Strong professional with a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) focused in Pastoral Care from Logsdon School of Theology. Paul also has a podcast titled "The Unbroken Ground," which focuses on following Jesus. For comments and questions or to request Paul as a speaker or podcast guest: You can read more about the author here.

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