Creating Space for God – No Striving
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place to rest.” –Mark 6:31b
The spectacle on Mount Carmel is over. God has brought fire, followed by rain. And Elijah, tucking his cloak in his belt, has run all the way to Jezreel ahead of King Ahab, only to be confronted with a message from Ahab’s wicked wife, Jezebel. “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like one of them.” She’s referring, of course, to the prophets of Baal who Elijah commanded to be killed on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:40).
Scripture tells us “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (1 Kings 19:3). And really, who can blame him? Jezebel’s reputation for cruelty is well known. She may not have the title of King, but she has the power of the throne in her hands. And to this day don’t we use the name Jezebel to describe a woman who is shameless, evil, wicked, immoral, and scheming?
Psychologists tell us that the fight-flight-freeze response is our body’s natural reaction to perceived threats. In Elijah’s case the threat was very real and running made a lot of sense. But it is his next conversation with God that interests me. Elijah says to the Lord, “I have had enough…take my life.”
Some scholars contend that Elijah was depressed after Mount Carmel, and that may well be the case. But I can’t help but be moved by his honesty with God. He doesn’t try to hide his mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. He doesn’t try to fake it ’til he makes it. There’s no masking the way he feels: “I have had enough.”
If we’re honest, most of us have been there at some time, too, haven’t we? How did you ride out the storm? What brought you comfort and renewed your sense of peace? Elijah crawled under a tree and went to sleep.
Jesus gives us a different way. He invites us to create space for Him during the highs and the lows of life; to cease our striving and come with Him to a quiet place. Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier in several of the verses from his hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” puts it this way:
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.