What do you do when you hit rock bottom?
A few years ago when The Muppets movie came out. And my kids loved it. What they loved even more was the soundtrack. We probably played this song a thousand times…
“Everything is great everything is grand
I got the whole wide world in the palm of my hand
Everything is perfect its falling into place
I cant seem to wipe this smile off my face
Life’s a happy song when there’s someone by my side to sing along.”
That’s what it’s like when you’re on top of the mountain. When everything is going your way. We’re wining when it comes to life, to work, with our kids, in our marriage. For the most part it feels like things are going our way.
But what happens when we’re not on top of the world?
What happens when we’re trying to spin too many plates & they come crashing down & falling down all around us?
What happens when instead of feeling like we’re on the mountain top, we feel like we’re in the deepest, darkest valley?
What do we do when all of a sudden we go from the highest point to the lowest point?
What do you do when you hit rock bottom?
God of the Valley
I think this is exactly what Elijah experienced. And I think it gives us hope & encouragement to realize that even God’s greatest people experienced high highs & low lows when following Him.
Here’s what happens…
1 Kings 19.1-18
When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal.
You have to wonder at this point in the story if Elijah thought Ahab had turned back to God?
After what God had done through Elijah on the mountain, calling fire down from heaven, defeating Baal & the prophets of Baal & even killing all 850 prophets of Baal… I mean, Baal was utterly & completely defeated that day… you have to wonder if Ahab had made the decision to turn back to Yahweh.
In a way, he kind of had to… all of Israel was there & witnessed what God did, what Elijah did that day. And if Ahab had turned back to worship Yahweh alone, maybe he thought Jezebel, after hearing this news, might have turned to God too.
But after hearing all that God did on that mountain, this was how Jezebel responded…
So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”
I think its safe to assume that Elijah was incredibly disappointed in this moment.
I think Elijah was hopeful that the revival that had started on the mountain would continue in the streets & throughout the kingdom. That Israel & it’s leadership would return to God.
But instead, Jezebel has chosen to ignore what God has done.
Instead, she does exactly what people with power who are full of fear often do… she responds with threats of violence.
So how does Elijah, our fearless prophet who has just come off the mountain with God, respond?
Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
Why was Elijah afraid?
This is a question I’ve wrestled with for many years. And I’m sure there’s more than one answer, more than one way to look at it, but I’ll tell you why I think Elijah is so afraid in this moment…
I think it’s because he’s human.
After having a showdown with king Ahab, with 850 prophets of Baal & Asherah, after pleading with all of Israel that was there on the mountain that day to return to God, after witnessing God respond to his prayer in a mighty & powerful way, Elijah was spent.
He was exhausted.
He was physically, emotionally & spiritually drained.
Elijah was tired. And I don’t know about you but when I’m tired, when I’m depleted, that’s when I’m most likely to be afraid, to loose faith, to make mistakes & feel far from God.
But thankfully, the God who was with Elijah on the mountain is present with Elijah in the valley as well, & He knows exactly what Elijah needs. At his lower point, God provides rest, food & drink for Elijah in a supernatural way.
God knew, Yahweh knew, that his servant that had been faithful to him on the mountain needed Him to be faithful to him in the valley.
And this may be something you need to hear today as well, that the God who is with you on the mountain is present in your valleys as well. And your God knows just what you need.
So God feeds Elijah, gives him the best rest he’s ever had, & then meets him in a cave where He can talk to him one on one.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
The voice & presence of God is found in the sound of a gentle whisper. The God who has a voice like thunder speaks into the silence.
And if you want to find God, you’ll often find him in the quiet places.
Here’s what God said to Elijah in the silence…
Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram.16 Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet.17 Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! 18 Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”
Here’s what Elijah discovered that day…
The same God who reigns on the mountain is sovereign over the valley.
The same God who sent fire from Heaven for all the world to see is here in this cave to speak to Elijah in a gentle whisper.
And here in this moment he meets with Elijah who has just come off the highest mountain to experience his deepest valley & God gives Elijah something to do & someone to serve.
He tells Elijah, here’s what I need you to do & He tells him here’s who I need you to know.
He invites him to get involved in His mission & He tells him to invest his life in another.
God wasn’t finished with Elijah.
And God isn’t finished with you either.
Sovereign in the Silence
Maybe today you feel like you’re in that same valley. Maybe today, like Elijah, you’re afraid. You’re living in fear.
If so, maybe, like Elijah, it’s high time to get re-engaged in the mission of God & re-invested in the lives of the people of God. Maybe you too need something to do & someone to serve.
If you ever feel lost, down or not sure what to do next, I think it’s safe to say one place to start is just to ask,
Where can I serve & who can I love?
What can I do & who can I help?
Here’s what you know is true… the storms will hit. The phone call will come. The news will break. And you will find yourself in the valley. But if you know God deeply, if you have found him in the quiet places, He will meet you there in the valley.
And when He finds you in the valley, when you return the quiet places where you have often met with God… just like with Elijah, he will feed you, he will give you rest, he will sustain you & He will renew you. And then, at just the right time, he will give you something to do & he will show you someone to serve.
So what do you do when you hit rock bottom?
We’re going to experience the top of the mountain & the bottom of the valley.
But here’s what I want us to remember, that there is life on the other side of the valley.
There is life on the other side of disappointment.
Ask Moses, after 40 years of exile & abandonment in the wilderness, he has an encounter with God.
Ask Jonah, after 3 days abandoned in the blackness of the belly of a big fish, he finds God.
Ask Elijah, after experiencing God on the mountain top he feels abandoned in the valley & asks God to take his life, only to be taken up in chariot of fire & never dying.
Ask Jesus who felt abandoned on the cross & cried out My God, why have you forsaken me. Then, after 3 days in the grave he hears His Father in Heaven whisper the words, Arise!
If your in the middle of the valley, take heart. God is with you there.
Sometimes, we need only to be still & know that there is no God like our God. That He is faithful. His Word is true. And that even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is near.
That our God reigns even in the silence.