Then Elijah was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” [1 Kings 19:3-4, NRSV]
Talk about drama queens! Elijah was definitely one of them. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah engaged in a “My God is better than your god” contest with the prophets of Baal. (This coming Sunday’s first lesson.) Elijah won the contest with an overkill of special effects from, and celebrated his victory by having all the prophets of Baal killed. This enraged Queen Jezebel who issued a death threat against him.
What did Elijah do? He panicked. He lost his perspective. He fled into the desert, plopped himself under a broom tree and, like James Kirk from the Starship Enterprise, yelled out “Beam me up, God. I don’t want to spend another minute on this god-forsaken planet!”
I have always suspected that Elijah was suffering from burnout. This is why he lost his perspective so quickly. Burnout is something everyone usually experiences in life. However, burnout is higher in the LGBTQ community because of the added prejudices and discriminations we face: losing a job because we were outed; fear of being thrown out of our churches; loss of our family’s love and support; being the object of taunting and scorn in school; fear of being a victim of violence such as the recent mass murder in Orlando. Sometimes it makes us want to yell like Elijah “Beam us up, God. we don’t want to spend another minute on this god-forsaken planet!”
Fortunately, this is not the end of the story…for Elijah or for us. After Elijah’s dramatic plea to God, he falls asleep, exhausted. Twice during the night, an angel rouses him from his sleep and gives him a loaf of fresh baked bread and a jug of water. Now that’s room service!! The next morning, 1 Kings 19:8 tells us “nourished by that meal, Elijah walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb.”
Elijah’s story reminds us that when we are feeling burned out the best thing we can do for ourselves is to create a space for rest and solitude so that God can restore our bodies, minds and spirits. We cannot always “fight the fight.” Sometimes we need to rest as well. Think about it.
Copyright ©2016 by David Eck