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[Elijah] came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die.” (1 Kings 19:4)

Have you ever felt like giving up; like saying, “That’s it. I’m done. I’ve had enough”? If so, you’re not alone. At one point in his life, a very low point, the prophet Elijah felt the same. Fleeing into the desert, he slumped beneath a juniper tree and begged God to end his miserable existence. “I’ve had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life. I’m no better than my ancestors.”

How could Elijah sink into such despair? He was a prophet of God. His very name expressed confidence in the Almighty. Elijah—ELIYAHU in Hebrew—means “My God is Jehovah.” A confession of faith. Yet, almost inexplicably, after one threat from wicked Queen Jezebel, Elijah fled to a desert, fled to a juniper tree, where he prayed for death.

For us, one comment from a doctor, “It’s cancer”; or from an employer, “You’re fired”; or from a financial advisor, “Your retirement fund is in ruins”; can send us running to a dismal juniper tree of our own. The question is, what should we do when we get there?

Remember God’s Past Dealings

Did Elijah remember God’s past dealings? Honestly, I don’t know. Perhaps he temporarily forgot, or considered them irrelevant to his personal circumstances. And we are quick to criticize him. “Elijah, when you prayed for drought, God sent drought. When you prayed for rain, God made it rain in torrents. When you had no food, God sent ravens to feed you. Did you forget all this, Elijah? You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Only, haven’t we all done the same? Amid some crisis or need, have we not all forgotten God’s past dealings with us, or considered them irrelevant to our personal circumstances? And so, like Elijah, we run and hide and slump beneath our juniper tree, wondering who will help us, insisting no one can. Nonsense.

Instead of complaining, we should be asking: “Has God ever failed me in the past? Has there ever been a day when God has failed to provide for me or protect me or keep my heart beating the 115,200 times it beats each day? Is this not the same God Who sacrificed His only Son to save me from my sins? And this being true, will He withhold any other godly blessings in my life? No. So, am I going to stay here beneath this juniper tree, feeling sorry for myself, or am I going to get up, brush myself off, and go forth in the joy and confidence God wants me to have?”

Remember to Feed on God’s Word

As Elijah lay beneath his juniper tree, an angel told him, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” (1 Kings 19:7) So Elijah ate the food God provided and was enabled to complete his journey.

Whether our journey is through the next day, next problem, or life itself, we too need to feed on God’s Word—what Jesus called the one thing needed, and Paul called the power of God for salvation. When we avoid God’s Word, we feed our depression, not our faith.

If you want the strength to complete your journey, feed on the food God has prepared, as did Elijah, remembering this promise of Jesus in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

Afterwards, strengthened and refreshed, take the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and chop down that juniper tree.

Acacia tortilis, or broom tree,  in eastern Israel.
Acacia tortilis, or broom tree, in eastern Israel.

Mark Weis is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.