I was standing in cave, somewhere deep under the midwestern US. Darkness so thick I could almost taste it. A hand an inch in front of my face would pass undetected. Friends inches away might as well have been in another time zone.
Our leader had us turn off our flashlights, and she led us through the story of another old saint who also found himself in a cave.
Elijah. The great man of God. The caller of fire. The defender of truth. The raiser from the dead. The one who could outrun the wind. The man so tuned into God that he earned the title “Troubler of Israel” from a wicked king.
Yet also, Elijah, the man who was afraid. The man who ran for his life.
The one who God found, hiding in the cave.
The great Almighty creator God pursued His child, even into the literal depths of the earth. He greets Elijah with a question: “What are you doing here?”
Elijah answers with a litany of excuses, excuses that actually make a lot of sense to my humanity. The Lord listens, and answers with a tremendous show of his presence, in the way He so often does – rather than give Elijah answers, He gives Elijah presence.
Both God’s pursuit of Elijah and his prodding questions nearly undid me that day.
Stop and think on it for a moment. The Creator, Almighty maker of the heavens, noticed that one man was hiding. And He cared enough to call him out of his cave. I don’t think He went to all that bother to get Elijah out of the cave simply because He had work for Elijah to do. He wanted Elijah back.
I was grateful for the cover of darkness the cave provided, for the dark hid my river of tears.
Or so I thought.
30 minutes later as we emerged into the light, our heads-up leader found his way to my side and calmly asked what had touched me so deeply in the cave. I was found out. My tears had not been hidden.
And I could hardly answer.
Because I didn’t know.
I have come to see that that’s the power of the Word of God. It can reach in and do its work in the hardest of hearts, in the driest of soils. It begins to prod in a way we didn’t even know we needed. It can break into secret parts, tear down neatly-built walls that we think hide our sin. It can simultaneously comfort and convict. Tear down and build up.
When I entered the cave that day, I was so deeply inside my internal cave that I didn’t even know I was there. I needed a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. I needed a way out.
A few days later when I had some extended time alone, God used this story to prod into places locked in the corner of my heart. The God of Elijah met me in cave I was hiding in and called me out of the darkness into his marvelous light.
But God wasn’t done with the story of Elijah yet.
Fast-forward four months.
I’m no longer tasting darkness, this time salt is on my lips. I’m sitting by the ocean, a half-spin of the globe from that midwestern cave. Physical darkness is not a part of this picture, but the long dark night of unmet expectations and cultural clash that the three-month mark hit me with felt nearly as palpable.
I almost felt sheepish pulling his story out again. I felt like God had done all he could do with my heart in that particular story. But I pulled out my Bible.
And read the story once again.
And again, the God of Elijah had something for me.
This time, it wasn’t so much about caves. This time, I needed to see, understand, deeply know another part of this story.
I needed to know provision.
And this story is laden with it. God provides Elijah with protection at the brook, but what about food? Oh yes, the ravens. God provides for Elijah through the widow and her son, but then what about the son’s death? There’s that part about the son coming back to life. God asks Elijah to call literal fire from heaven with all manner of onlookers, and boy does he bring it. And then my favorite, Elijah is literally running from God and what does God do? He sends the Angel of the Lord to give Elijah the nourishment needed for his journey. And then my other favorite, he answers Elijah’s confession of loneliness by providing a man named Elisha.
Time and again it looked like everything was collapsing around Elijah, yet the Lord’s provision was just around the bend.
My heart lept with the truth – just as God’s provision awaited Elijah following the years of drought (both literal and figurative) so His provision awaited me.
Maybe today you’re in a cave. Know this: the God of Elijah is not scared of caves. He will pursue. He will rescue.
Maybe you’re needing provision: spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially. Hold on. It might be waiting just around the bend.
Take heart from a saint of old. Go read all of Elijah’s story. Take courage, and follow.
What story has come back to teach you something time and again?
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