Are you afraid, discouraged, disappointed, or depressed? Do you feel exhausted or alone? Have you found yourself dealing with self-pity and self-condemnation? Have you ever reached the point where you wondered whether life is worth living? In some form or another, the prophet Elijah dealt with these very issues, but he wasn’t the only one. God’s people have experienced these trials throughout Scripture and throughout history. In this message from David Platt from 1 Kings 19:1–18, we’ll see why we have reason for hope in every circumstance. The God who created us and sustains us also pursues his people, even in their darkest days. Regardless of our feelings, fears, or circumstances, those who are trusting in Christ can rest in God’s character and his promises.
If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open with me to 1 Kings 19. If you need to use the table of contents, feel free to do so. While you’re turning there, I’ll welcome those of you in person, as well as others online who are physically unable to be with us today. It’s good to be together around God’s Word. Especially for those of you who are visiting with our church family today, I want to welcome you. My name is David Platt, I’m one of the pastors and we are really glad you are here.
We are in week four of a series that we’re calling “Being With God.” So in week one, Pastor Mike walked us through John 15:9 and reminded us that being with God is the goal of life, enjoying and abiding in God and his love for us. If you remember John 15:9, say it out loud with me: “Jesus said, ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I love you. Abide in my love.’” Yes! Live every day abiding in a love relationship with God.
That then led to the next week, when we walked through Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6, that we are to go into a room each day, close the door, and pray to God with nobody else around—just you and God together. We talked about how that practice will not just revolutionize your prayer life; it will revolutionize your entire life. That day we kicked off 21 days of prayer and fasting as a church. You can still find our resources for that, even if you’re just joining in at this point, at mcleanbible.org/21days.
That brought us to week three, last Sunday, when Mike led us to think about being with God in the chaos and busyness of life, about how we can practice the presence of God amidst everything on our schedules. All of that now leads us to week four today when we’re going to talk about being with God in the dark.
I share that title with you in a sense to prepare you for the next few moments, because if we’re going to talk about being with God amidst dark days in our lives, then we need to be honest about what it’s like to be in the dark. One of my hopes for today is that when you think about being with God in the dark you will realize you are not alone. I don’t just mean that God is with you during dark days, although I hope and have prayed that you would see and feel that reality at a deeper level today. I want you to see that “God is with you” is not just a trite religious phrase. Knowing that God is with you is a sorrow-transforming, joy-inducing, death-defying, life-giving rock like no other in this world.
I also want you to see and feel that you’re not alone in the history of God’s people. Throughout this Book we see men and women, worshipers of God, followers of Jesus, in really hard, dark places. I want to show you one of them today, one of the heroes of the Bible, one of the heroes of faith: Elijah.
Here’s the set-up. God’s people had become idolatrous under the reign of King Ahab. They were worshiping the Canaanite rain god Baal, believing that if they prayed to Baal, then Baal would bring rain and fertility to the land and food to their tables. So God called Elijah to confront King Ahab and 450 prophets of Baal.
That story is told in 1 Kings 18. Elijah prayed and fire fell from heaven. Then he prayed again, then though it hadn’t rained in years, it started pouring. Talk about a spiritual high. When you pray and fire and rain fall from the sky, it’s been a good day. Now watch what happened as Ahab’s wife Jezebel hears about this, beginning in 1 Kings 19:1:
1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”
So Jezebel, an evil woman with all the resources of the kingdom at her disposal, just said she’s going to kill Elijah the next day. Now let’s read the rest of the story:
3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. 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.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
All right. Let’s think together about this dark moment in Elijah’s life. We don’t know all that was going on in his mind and heart, but we have some pretty clear clues to his physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual state at this point. I was studying this passage this week and listed out all the different descriptors that seem to mark Elijah.
- Elijah is clearly afraid. Verse three explicitly tells us that.
- Elijah is dis-couraged. He had courage to stand against the king and 450 prophets the day before, but now he’s running with no courage.
- He’s disappointed and dejected. It sure seems like Elijah thought, “Now that fire has fallen from heaven and rain from the sky, surely the spiritual battle is over and all the people will turn back to God.” But the next day the battle is still going on. Things are not working out the way Elijah thought they would.
- He’s disappointed and dejected which leads him to depression and despair. I hesitate to use the word depression, because it’s not like we have enough in this text to offer a clinical diagnosis the way this term is often used today. But I’m describing a clear level of heaviness that leads Elijah to say, “It’s enough. I don’t even want to go on.” This is not just, “I don’t want to go on in ministry, or in this activity.” Elijah is having thoughts about not wanting to go on in life. “Lord, take away my life. I can’t take it anymore.” Yet he’s conflicted, right? Because the whole reason he’s running from Jezebel is he wants to save his life. That’s just it. He’s so conflicted, with all these thoughts and emotions, that he doesn’t know what he wants. Maybe what he wants at one moment is different than what he wants in another moment.
- In the end, he’s exhausted. He’s physically tired. He’s weary. He lays down with all these thoughts and emotions overwhelming him, and he falls asleep.
Then as we go on in the story, we see a couple other realities about Elijah:
- He’s alone. In one sense he makes sure he’s alone by leaving his servant behind. In another sense he just feels alone. “I’m the only prophet left. I and I only am walking through this.”
- This leads to two other issues I’ll point out here: self-pity and self-condemnation. Elijah’s pretty focused on everything that’s wrong in his life, in the world and how that’s affecting him. Elijah’s pretty hard on a lot of people, including himself. “I’m no better than my fathers,” he says. Elijah is essentially saying, “The prophets before me failed to see all they wanted to see among God’s people, so now I’m a failure too.”
So put all that together and this is a pretty dark spot, isn’t it? My point in bringing us to this passage today is in part to show you that, yes, this is a dark and familiar spot for God’s people, for worshipers of God, followers of Jesus, throughout this Book, even throughout this gathering today.
I want to do something to bring all of our stories into this story. We’re going to consider eight questions total. We won’t hit on all the things Elijah experienced that we might experience, but here’s the first one.
First, on a scale of one to five, how much do you currently struggle with fear? You can answer one if you answer, “I’m not struggling with fear at all right now.” Put five if you answer, “I’m struggling a lot with fear right now.” Or anywhere in between: two, three or four.
Secondly, on a scale of one to five, how much do you currently struggle with discouragement? Either not at all, a lot, or somewhere in between.
Third, on a scale of one to five, how much are you currently struggling with exhaustion? “I don’t feel exhaustion at all,” or “I feel exhausted a lot,” or somewhere in between.
Fourth, on a scale of one to five, how much are you currently struggling with physical pain? Now to be clear, we don’t see evidence of physical pain beyond exhaustion in Elijah, but that’s certainly something we see in similar stories throughout the Bible, and I know it’s represented in this gathering. So that’s the fourth question.
Then number five, back to what we do see in Elijah. On a scale of one to five, how much do you currently struggle with loneliness?
Then number six, on a scale of one to five, how much do you currently struggle with self-pity or self-condemnation? I realize those two things are different, although they can often go together. If you experience either one, indicate that for this question.
Number seven, on a scale of one to five, how often does a thought cross your mind similar to what Elijah said about not wanting to go on? I’m intentionally phrasing that question in a certain way to be sensitive on a lot of levels. When you think about what Elijah is saying in 1 Kings 19:4, how often does that thought cross your mind?
Then related to all of this, the last question is a yes or no question. Looking at your entire life—so not just right now, but including your past—has a thought like Elijah expressed about not wanting to go on ever entered your life and mind at any point in your life? Just yes or no.
Thank you for your participation in this. As you answer these questions, I want us to step back and get a sense of where we are as a gathering. As we’re hearing God speak to us through this word in this moment, what are we bringing into this gathering. Let me pull up these results; you’ll see them on the screen.
On a scale of one to five, how much do you currently struggle with fear? Basically at least over 60% in this gathering at some level are struggling with some kind of fear.
Second, on a scale of one to five, how much do you currently struggle with discouragement? Again, over 60% in this gathering are coming in with some level of discouragement.
Number three, how much are you currently struggling with exhaustion? This is interesting. For the 10% who are feeling strong right now, blessings upon you. Praise God for his grace in this 10%. For basically 70% of us, there’s some level of weariness and exhaustion that we’re bringing into this gathering right now, and a very high percentage of us are extremely exhausted.
What about physical pain? Again, praise God for this 40% and 30%. At the same time, there are 16%, 9% and 4% respectively, with all the scenarios this involves. There are people sitting around you right now who are struggling with physical pain.
Then loneliness. There’s close to 50%—close to half—with some level of struggle with loneliness—in this large gathering of people.
Number six, self-pity or self-condemnation. Again, over half of the people in this gathering are struggling at some level with self-pity or self-condemnation.
Then number seven, how often do thoughts cross your mind similar to what Elijah said about not wanting to go on? I just want to pause here and say, for those of you who put a high number on this, I want to strongly encourage you to share this with a trusted friend, a mentor, a family member, pastor, counselor, someone who can help you process this. I want to encourage you to do that today. It is not good for any of us to be alone as we walk through any of these things, especially these thoughts. Please, reach out to somebody—even before you leave today. If you don’t know where to turn, we have pastors and leaders who can listen and pray with you, helping you get connected to care. You can reach out to [email protected]. Please reach out to somebody today. It’s no accident that you are hearing this encouragement in your life at this moment.
That leaves one more question. The reason I wanted to ask this question is because I want us to see how common this is to so many people. Sixty-five percent; people of all ages. I remember the first time I had this thought; I was pretty young. I was scared by even having the thought. There is a sense in which this thought is common among the majority of us in this fallen world and even makes sense in this fallen world. We long for another world where sin, suffering and death will be no more. Paul himself said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ. That would be better by far” (Philippians 1:23). He obviously did not let that thought lead him to take things out of God’s hands, nor to do anything that would be dishonoring to God or others, even to the life God had given to him.
Which then leads us back to Elijah and the whole point of this exercise. I trust it’s clear to us that dark days are a reality in this world. I hope it changes your perspective on a gathering like this. Just look around. You’re not sitting next to people who are just filling a seat. You’re sitting next to people who are right now walking through all kinds of fear, discouragement, loneliness, emotions and thoughts at deep levels.
So what does it mean to be with God alone in the dark? What do we learn from 1 Kings 19? Here’s the one overarching truth I want you to hear God saying to you today, amidst anything going on in your life. If you’re not walking through a dark day right now in any way, write this down and store it away in your heart and mind for dark days that may be around the corner. Here’s the truth:
In the dark, don’t forget that God is God,
God is good and
God is relentless in his pursuit of you and your good.
Now, that is a loaded sentence that I want to unpack, especially for those of you who are in the dark right now. Again, those of you who are not, hide this away; store it in your heart for whatever lies ahead.
Let’s start from the end of this statement.
God is relentless in his pursuit of you and your good.
Is that not evident in Elijah’s life? Elijah is running from God—from God’s people, from God’s land, from God’s call in his life. It’s almost Jonah-like. And like Jonah, Elijah is saying, “I don’t want to go on.” Where is God? Just like God was with Jonah, God is running after Elijah. He’s right there with him. He sends an angel to feed him. “Here’s something to eat and a jar of water to drink.” Elijah eats and drinks from the nourishment God provides, then goes back to sleep. This angel from God wakes him up again. “Here’s some more food and drink for you.” It is pretty good food and drink, supplying strength for forty days and nights, until Elijah comes to a cave in a mountain. God meets him there and speaks to him.
This is exactly what David prayed in one of the most beloved Psalms in all the Bible—Psalm 23. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Why? “For you are with me there. You’re with me in the valley. I’m not alone in the valley. Your rod and your staff, they’re comforting me in the valley. You’re preparing a table before me. You’re not just with me, you prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies, anointing my head with oil, my cup overflowing. Surely, without question—I know this—goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
Do you see this word “follow”? That word can be a bit misleading, because when we hear it, we might picture the Lord just kind of lagging behind us. If you’re going to follow somebody, you stay behind them, maybe even keep a little distance between you and them. I think maybe at times that’s how we think about God’s love, kind of lagging behind us, maybe a step behind, maybe even waiting for us to do something to earn it. That’s not the imagery here. This word ‘follow’ is an all-out active pursuit.
It’s like when I first saw Heather and decided to pursue her. There were obstacles in the way, most notably another guy, but that was not going to stop me from active, all-out pursuit. I was not lagging behind. I was forging ahead, so that whenever she turned from him, she would see me right there.
This, Psalm 23 says, is what God does in your life. He does not lag behind you. He relentlessly pursues you. Even if in our darkness we find ourselves running from God, God is surely running after us. I know that in a gathering this size there are many of you who, if you’re honest, have been away wandering from God. You’re pretty distant from God right now, or you may be having a hard time trusting in God. Maybe it’s because of dark days. I just want you to hear right now, even in your running, that God is relentlessly pursuing you with his goodness and mercy. You’re not alone in the dark. God is right there with you.
God is God.
You say, “That seems like the most super obvious statement in the world. What do you mean by that? What are you saying here?” Well ironically, do you know what Elijah’s name means? Elijah’s name means “the Lord is God.” It’s literally “Yahweh is God.” I want you to think about this with me. Elijah has spent his life on the front lines fighting idolatry. Elijah has spent his life declaring, “There is only one true God! It’s not Baal, or any other god or idol or person, or anything in this world. There’s only one true God who is worthy of all your worship and worthy of all your trust. Baal doesn’t sustain the land or your life. God is your sustainer. Baal doesn’t provide for all you need. God is the provider of all you need. God alone is God. God alone is enough for all you need.”
Now do you see the irony here? These dark days are bringing to light idolatry in Elijah’s life. Follow this. Sure, Elijah was not worshiping Baal. He wasn’t looking to Baal for sustenance and provision. That’s not where Elijah had put his hope. But Elijah had put his hope in things happening a certain way, in people turning to God and in him being the leader of this movement. Elijah wanted so badly to be successful and safe in his ministry that when it didn’t happen like he wanted, his life came crashing down. Then he came face to face with the question when my life doesn’t work out the way I want, will God be enough for me?
This is the same question every single one of us will face multiple times in this fallen world. Let’s put it up on the screen.
When my life doesn’t work out the way I want, will God be enough for me?
Did you notice how many times the word ‘enough’ is mentioned in this story? This is the question Elijah is facing, and it’s the question we all face. When life comes crashing down and things feel dark, will I trust that God is still God? That God is enough?
Think about all the questions we walked earlier through that you answered. Will I trust that God is enough to comfort me in my fears and carry my sorrows? Will I trust that God is enough to strengthen me in my exhaustion, to sustain me in my pain and discouragement, to provide for my every need? Will I trust that God is enough to lead my life as the only one who is worthy of my worship? In other words, will I trust that God is God? Will I trust and worship God as enough?
Dark days have a way of exposing idols in our lives. These dark days in Elijah’s life were exposing the fact that he wanted a successful and safe ministry for God, more than he actually wanted God. The dark days in our lives have a way of exposing things, even good things—good circumstances, dreams, people in this world—that we actually want more than God. When our health fails, when we get that diagnosis, when we’re in constant pain, do we actually want God more than health or healing or relief? When we lose a person we love and don’t know how we can go on, do we trust that God is actually sufficient for us to go on? When your dreams for your life, family or children are not turning out the way you desire, do you trust that God is God over unfulfilled dreams and even good desires? When people accuse or attack you unjustly or unfairly, it’s a good time ask if you truly trust God as your defender, if you truly want God’s glory more than you want your own reputation.
That thing you want, that health you want, that dream you want, that marriage you want, that child you want, that person you want—all these things may be good, but none of them are God. Dark days bring to light the things we desire more than God, the things we trust in more than God, the things we cling to or hope in more than God.
Now follow this: God loves us so much that he will not ultimately let us hold on to hope or trust in circumstances or dreams or people that are not ultimately able to sustain, satisfy and provide for our deepest needs. God alone is sufficient to provide for all you need and will mercifully meet you in the dark and free you from idolatry, even idolatry of good things. So your hope and trust are grounded in the best thing—in God himself. Not in the gifts we have in this world, but in the Giver of every good gift. The God who loves you more than anyone or anything in this world. The God who loves you more than everyone and everything in this world put together. In the dark, do not forget that God is God, the sustainer of your soul and the provider of all you need. Don’t forget that God is the all-sufficient Savior, Deliverer, King and Lord of your life.
Elijah needed to be reminded of this in the dark. He did not understand why this was happening, nor what God was doing. It made no sense to him. He was asking questions like, “I don’t understand—how is this good? God, don’t you want all these people to turn to you? Don’t you want to protect me from these threats? I’m the only prophet left. God, what are you doing? Why is this happening?”
In the same way that you and I will find ourselves confused and in the dark, we will think, “I don’t understand. How is this good? This makes no sense. Why is God letting this happen?” Elijah needed to remember that God is God, that God is not just God in big, grandiose displays of glory—the whirlwinds, the earthquakes, the fires—but God is God in the low whisper of his word. When we don’t see his glory in the grand displays we desire to see—whether it’s bodies being healed, relationships being restored or enemies being stopped—God is still God. His word is still true and rock solid, no matter how soft its whisper sounds. As God, he is working. God gently says, “Elijah, you have no idea all that I’m doing. You have no idea that I actually have a lot of other people and prophets. I’m in control. I am God; you are not. I am working in ways you do not see, yet you can trust me.”
This is so important, because some people will tell you, when you’re in the dark, it’s okay to be angry with God. I want to say be extremely cautious with that counsel. I don’t have a lot of time for nuance now. It’s certainly not wrong when we’re hurting to ask God questions, in faith, amidst dark days. We see that throughout the Bible. Just read the entire book of Habakkuk, or even Jesus himself on the cross, as he asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus is never angry with God; Jesus is trusting in God.
Don’t forget that sin actually starts with not trusting in God. Sin in this entire world started with a deceiving voice speaking to a created being, saying, “You can’t trust your creator. He doesn’t know or want what’s best for you. Look at what he’s doing. Look at what he’s withholding from you.” So whenever a voice whispers in your ear, saying, “You should have all your heart’s desires, including the good thing in front of you that God is keeping or taking away from you, so you can’t trust him.” You can be sure that voice is coming from the pit of hell. Do not listen to that voice. It will take you to much darker places.
Don’t forget God is God, which means that you are not. God is worthy of all your trust, which means that you are not worthy of all your trust. We need to remember this. In all the thoughts and emotions we have in dark days, we need to remember that we are created beings who have a perfect, holy Creator who does no wrong and who knows infinitely better than we do what is right and good. That’s the point: in the dark, don’t forget that God is God.
God is good.
And God is good. I’m running out of time, but you’ve got to see this. Elijah had no idea how good God is and where all this is going. God says, “Elijah, my work in this world is going to go on long after you; you can trust me with that. You can trust me with your life in this world and beyond this world.”
Let’s fast forward; turn over to 2 Kings 2, just a couple chapters to the right. Elijah didn’t see God’s glory in the earthquake, the wind and the fire in 1 Kings 19. But look at what happens in 2 Kings 2:11-12 as he and Elisha, his successor, were walking along together. “And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, ‘My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ And he saw him no more.”
Ha! It’s like God was saying in 1 Kings 19, “Elijah, just wait. In the dark, just trust in the low whisper of my voice to sustain you until the day when the earth shakes beneath you, the wind swirls around you, then horses and chariots of fire will come and pick you up, bringing you home to glory. Elijah, you have no idea all I have in store for you.”
You know what? Not even that is the end of Elijah’s story. We read this when we walked through the book of Mark. Look at Mark 9:2-4:
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.
Elijah would one day find himself on another high mountain with Peter, James, John and Moses. Together they would see the glory of God in the face of Jesus himself. Elijah had no idea what God was doing in the dark of 1 Kings 19. He had no idea how God was working for his good.
I share this because this is God’s word for everyone in this gathering who trusts in God, for everyone who turns from your sin and yourself, trusting in Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your life. You have no idea how good he is and how he is working right now for your good. You may not be able to see it or understand it right now, but just listen in this moment to God in the whisper of his Word.
To all who trust in Jesus, Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Paul goes on in Romans 8:28-30 to say this. Keep in mind that “all things” means everything, even the hardest, darkest things, all of them.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
First Corinthians 2:9 states, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” And one day, one day very soon—it could be today—the earth is going to shake, fulfilling 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
When that happens, Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
For all who trust that God is God, that God is good, that God has relentlessly pursued your good by sending his own Son to die for your sin and rise from the dead, you can know there is coming a day when fear will be no more. When discouragement, disappointment and dejection will be no more. When depression, disorders, diagnoses from doctors and disease itself will be no more. When cancers, tumors, physical pain and exhaustion will be no more. When loneliness and loss will be no more. When sin, condemnation and death itself will be no more. All that’s left will be life—good, glorious, never-ending, all-satisfying life that we will experience forever with God.
So don’t run from God in the dark. Run to God in the dark. On a purely practical level, this week, those of you who are walking in the dark, do the following things.
Get alone with God and honestly, thankfully pray to him. Go into your room, just like Jesus says, and close the door so it’s just you and God. Cry out to him, honestly, with all your hurts, all your questions, all your confusion. Faithfully trust in him as God. Trust that he hears you. He will help you in every way that you and others ultimately need. Jesus has made it possible for you to be on the mountainside with God in the darkness of your life. So go there with him this week, with honesty and faith.
Then second, listen to the whisper of his voice in his Word. As you pray, you’ll be asking for all kinds of things. So ask for healing, restoration, resolution, for the end to this or that. As you speak, make sure to take time to stop and listen, write down verses, promises, truths from God in his Word, reminders from God in his Word, then take time to meditate on them. Memorize them. God’s Word is the rock you need to stand on.
I know from experience there is nothing in this world like getting alone with God in the dark and letting his Word speak to the depth of your heart with comfort, strength and help. Feel free to ask others for help in finding verses, truths and promises in God’s Word that can be helpful for you.
Which leads to the third encouragement: Share with others how they can be praying for or with you in the darkness. Do not do any of this ultimately alone. I cannot imagine walking through dark days without the help of brothers and sisters praying for me, encouraging me, weeping with me, rejoicing with me, ultimately walking with me through the darkness. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I would not be standing here if I didn’t have brothers and sisters who’ve walked with me through dark days. Don’t do it alone.
After all of this, number four, don’t forget that God is God, God is good and God is relentless in his pursuit of you and your good.
As we close, I want to lead us to God, with all the things going on in each of our lives. I want to give you a couple moments, just between you and God, with this question: What is God calling you to trust him with in the dark today? In your life, in somebody else’s life you’re walking alongside them. I want to give you a few moments to be with God in the dark, to say either, “God, I trust you with this,” or maybe, “God, help me to trust you with this.” With all that’s going on in your heart and mine, in life and family, spend a couple moments alone with God. Then I will lead us from there. What is God calling you to trust him with.
As you continue in prayer, I do want to ask every person within the sound of my voice if you have put your trust in God with your life. Have you trusted in Jesus, turned from your sin and yourself, and said, “I trust in Jesus to save me from my sin and restore me to relationship with God, to be the Lord of my life”? This is where all of this starts.
I’m reminded of one new brother in Christ I was talking with in the lobby between gatherings today. He came up to me with tears in his eyes, saying, “Today is the first time I’ve trusted God with my life.” If you’ve never done this, just say right now in this moment, “God, I trust that you are God and you are the Lord of my life. I believe, Jesus, that you died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead so that I could be forgiven and free of sin and brought into relationship with you.” If you’ve put your trust in him, know that God has been relentless in bringing you to this point. Know that his goodness and mercy will follow you from this point all the days of your life.
I want us to take this opportunity to pray for one another in this gathering. If you would say either, “I’m walking through some darkness and would love for some people to pray for me,” or “There’s somebody I’m walking through darkness with, but they’re not able to be here today.”
So I’m going to invite you—either if you’re walking through darkness or on behalf of somebody who’s not able to be here—please stand if you’d like some people to gather around and put a hand on your shoulders. Nobody’s going to ask you all the details of what you’re going through. You obviously can share that at any point after we’ve prayed. I want us to have a moment to gather around each other, reminding each other, “You’re not alone in your darkness.”
I want to lead us in prayer, praying God’s Word over each other. So all across this room and other locations, please stand if you would say, “Yeah, I’m walking through some darkness; I’d love people to pray over me. I need an extra measure of grace.” Or stand on somebody else’s behalf who’s not able to be here today.
I trust you know there’s total freedom in this room. This is not just a gathering where we just sit in seats and watch what happens on the stage. We’re coming together with all these things going on in our lives. So we gather around each other and pray for each other. I want you to feel freedom, comfort and encouragement. Don’t think, “I don’t know if what I’m walking through is as dark as some of these others.” This is not about comparisons. If you would say, “I need an extra measure of grace in my life, or on behalf of somebody else I’m standing in for,” just stand now. I’ll give you a few more seconds. Is there anybody else?
Okay. There are folks standing all across this room so for those of you who are still sitting, if you see anybody near you who’s standing, I want to invite you to get up now and gather around them. just put a hand on their shoulders. Everybody else, please stand now. I’m going to lead us in prayer, voicing a prayer for all of us. The way corporate prayer works is that it’s like one person praying on behalf of all of us, To the extent to which what I pray is something you agree with, then just say, “Amen,” or “Yes, God.” We’ll lift up our hearts together in unison before God for each other. So let’s pray right now.
O God, our Father, we praise you as God, as the all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving God who is worthy of all our trust, all our worship and all our hope. You are our rock, our shield, our defender, our refuge, our fortress. So we come before you right now on behalf of those who are walking through dark days. God, we pray that even in this moment, as we gather around them, that they would know and feel in a deep way that they are not alone, that they would know that we are with them, that ultimately you are with them, that you are a refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
I pray that they would know Psalm 37, that you would uphold them with your righteous right hand, each one who trusts in you. God, we pray for your strength over them, for supernatural strength in their weakness. God, we pray for your peace over them, peace that passes all understanding. Please guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus with your peace. We pray for your comfort. We pray for the comfort of your Holy Spirit, for supernatural comfort amidst their hurts and pain.
God, we pray for deliverance from all fear. We pray that you would remove fear from those who trust in you, that even in this moment they would not worry or be anxious or afraid, but that they would hear your word in places like Isaiah 43 that says: “Fear not, I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, because I am the Lord your God. You are precious and honored in my sight and I love you.”
God, may they feel this reality in this moment, as they look to you and trust in you. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. God, we pray for your peace in the middle of chaos, peace that makes no sense. We pray for joy, supernatural joy that transcends suffering. God, we pray for your help in every way they need it.
You are Jehovah Jirah, the Lord will provide. This is who you are. You show your glory as the provider for your people. So provide, we pray, the strength, peace, comfort, wisdom, help, hope and faith. God, we pray for their faith. We pray that you would help them to be steadfast in faith. We pray for faith on days when faith is hard to come by, in moments when faith is hard to come by. We pray for grace amidst all the questions and confusion.
God, we pray that as they keep their eyes fixed on you, you would lead them, guide them, direct them, working all of this together for good in ways far beyond what we can ask or imagine, as we together look forward to the day when dark days will be no more. We long for the day when there will be no more sin, no more suffering, no more crying and no more pain. Come, Lord Jesus. Bring it about, we pray. We look forward to that day. We pray, God, help us to hold fast from this day until that day.
Work in all these things for our good, for others’ good, for the spread of the gospel and your glory. We pray that You would help us in the midst of dark days in this world in order to point others to the hope that’s found in you. We pray that people will experience salvation from you as they see us walk through dark days with trust in you. We pray all of this in the powerful, matchless name of Jesus, our Savior who died on the cross for our sins, our King who has conquered death and the grave. We pray all of this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people said together, “Amen.”
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Observation: What does the passage say?
1) Read 1 Kings 19:1–18 aloud as a group. Let group members share observations. Try not to move into interpretation of the passage or application of what you read quite yet. Simply share what you observe.
- What happens to Elijah in verses 1–4?
- From where does Elijah gain strength in verses 5–8?
- Between the bookends of “What are you doing here, Elijah,” in verses 9-13, what did Elijah experience?
- What promises does the Lord make to Elijah in verses 14–18, and how would you summarize 1 Kings 19:1–18 in your own words?
Interpretation: What does the passage mean?
1) God is God.
- In 1 Kings 18, God defeated the prophets of Baal through Elijah. How could Elijah experience that Divine, miraculous provision, only to forget it so quickly?
- Where is God when Elijah begins spiraling downward in verses 1–4, and how low does Elijah sink in verse 4?
- What human failings may have contributed to Elijah’s fear?
2) God is good.
- Why would God send an angel to Elijah?
- Beyond food, what provision does the angel bring?
- Horeb is the Hebrew name for Mount Sinai. What parallels can you draw between Elijah’s wanderings, Moses’ wanderings, and that they would both end up at the same place in the desert?
3) God is relentless in his pursuit of you and your good.
- What evidence do you see that Elijah did not fully grasp God’s Word in 1 Kings 19:9?
- Why didn’t Elijah see God in the supernatural phenomena he witnessed?
- Why did Elijah finally recognize God’s voice as a whisper?
Application: How can we apply this passage to our lives?
1) God is over all, and through all, and in all. (Ephesians 4:6)
- When your life doesn’t work out the way you want, is God enough for you?
- How can your Church Group help strengthen you in the Lord?
2) God relentlessly pursues us. (Luke 15:4–6)
- What is God calling you to trust Him with in the dark today?
- How can your Church Group support you as you seek to trust God more fully and deeply?
3) God deserves that we faithfully seek Him. To do that:
- Get alone with God and honestly, faithfully pray to Him.
- Listen to the whisper of His voice, in His Word.
- Share with others how they can be praying for or with you in the darkness.
- Don’t forget that God is God, God is good, and God is relentless in His pursuit of you and your good.
1 Kings 19:1–18 ESV
1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. 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.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
- Elijah was afraid, discouraged, disappointed, dejected, depressed, and in despair; exhausted, tired, weary, alone, in self-pity, and self-condemnation. These feelings led him to a dark place.
- In the dark, don’t forget that God is God, God is good, and God is relentless in His pursuit of you and your good.
- Darkness should lead us to question whether God is enough, which should lead us to call out to God.