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Meltdown is when you lose control in some other way than surrendering to God, and in every meltdown situation, there’s an underlying root emotion.

Sometimes, our lives lead us in a different direction than we were anticipating or planning for. We carefully prepare for the journey, study the directions, and try to navigate every turn correctly. But sometimes, things don’t turn out how we intended, and we end up where we never expected to be. We get stuck, stalled out, and lost.

We end up in the wilderness of life.

And there’s an emotion that takes over as we feel like we’ve been left abandoned. We feel like giving up, and maybe we do.

Our personal “wilderness” can take on many different forms.

A marriage in a rough place – Maybe we watch the trouble that other marriages around us have and think, “We’ll never be like that…”

The direction your kids are heading – We feel like we’ve been the best parents we could be, creating a nurturing environment to love them unconditionally. But they’re not heading in the direction we thought they would.

Career status – We’ve put our best foot forward at work. We’re honest, hard-working, talented, a team-player, but things aren’t working out, or we feel stuck.

Your faith or walk with God – We remember the days when God seemed so close, and we looked forward to church weekly. Everything was so alive and real, but now we feel like that all seems so far away.

One of the great mysteries of life is that there are so many things that don’t add up or don’t make sense.

We often have one of two reactions to the wilderness:

  1. We try to figure out why we got there.
  2. We search for the shortest path out.

Those reactions are natural, but one of the great things about God is that the wilderness isn’t where we’re abandoned. It’s where, sometimes, He meets us most powerfully.

Before we get to 1 Kings 19:1-10, Elijah confronts 450 of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18 in a decisive encounter where God consumes Elijah’s sacrifice with fire from heaven, proving He is God. Then He sends a heavy rain on the land for the first time in 3 years – a miracle. As if that’s not enough, Elijah then outruns Ahab’s chariot 17 miles from Mount Carmel to Jezreel, a miraculous accomplishment of speed or distance. Three decisive miracles. And this is where we pick up the story:

1 Kings 19:1-10
1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Have you ever played Jenga? The game has a tower of wooden blocks where you build the tower higher by removing blocks from it. It grows taller, taller, taller, and taller until it suddenly collapses.

That’s what happens to Elijah here in this passage. His stature, achievement, and influence grow until suddenly, at the beginning of the chapter, just when he’s had his greatest moment with three back-to-back miracles that decisively demonstrate God's power and reinforce Elijah’s calling and credibility, it falls apart.

Elijah flees into the wilderness, collapsing like the Jenga tower, utterly broken.

We find ourselves in the wilderness of life for many different reasons, but the reality is not IF we’ll face the wilderness, but WHEN.

We think success in the various places of life will keep us out of the wilderness, but here, the wilderness comes right after the greatest success. And the collapse is fast.

And like Elijah, we face several temptations when we find ourselves in the wilderness, whatever that looks like.

The Temptations of the Wilderness

  1. Isolation – Elijah is afraid of Jezebel and runs for his life as far away and as fast as he can. Elijah leaves his servant and enters the wilderness alone. When we face the wilderness of life, we will always face the temptation to isolate ourselves from voices of reason and truth, people who know us well, and people who truly care for our well-being. Deception always begins with the enemy trying to cut us off and isolate us.
  2. Desolation After leaving his servant, Elijah runs into the harsh desert. There’s no way he can survive there. Like Elijah, when faced with the wilderness, we tend to run to things that have the potential to destroy us – indulgences, unhealthy relationships, cynicism, depression, bitterness, or gossip.
  3. Despair – Elijah goes from the top of the world to the pit of despair in 4 short verses. He has decoupled himself from reality, a reality in which he looks like anything but a failure. He goes on to list all the negative without the balance of the 3 miracles that just happened. Awfulizing is very common in the wilderness. It’s hard to see past the bad things when we’re in the wilderness. But we miss the good when we focus on the bad. And we take the good for granted.

It would be great if the Bible gave us good, straightforward answers for all the wilderness situations in life. A three-step process to fix the situation and get out. But it doesn’t, and that can be incredibly frustrating, but that’s not the focus.

God’s primary focus is not what we are or where we’re headed. It’s who we are becoming along the way.

In good times and bad, in sickness and health, in joy and sorrow, in times of plenty and times of need, but especially in the hard places of life.

There are several lessons from this story of Elijah – lessons we can only learn in the wilderness of life. Lessons for our good. Lessons that allow us to survive and become more whole, at peace, and filled with the power of God.

Lessons of the Wilderness

  • Revive – realize you’re not alone (verses 5-6)
  • Remember – hold onto truth (verses 7-8)
  • Renew – be filled again (verse 9)

One of the greatest truths about the wilderness is that it may feel isolating, but we aren’t alone. God is waiting for us to stop running so He can meet us and revive us with what we truly need.

In the wilderness, we are given the opportunity to swallow lies and half-truths. The wilderness is not always avoidable, but it’s also not forever. It has a purpose to prepare us for the next leg of the journey and to give us a gift that we might then give to others.

How could God be calling you to help others in their wilderness?

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