Elijah, by the way, wasn’t looking for God to show up. He just decided to call it quits. But God showed up anyway. He knew His servant had lost his strength, and He intervened by means of an angel. It’s a shadow of Jesus in the wilderness, where angels came to minister to Him after His trial (Matt. 4:11). Perhaps even more significant, it’s a shadow of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, where He seemed to be at the end of His human strength in carrying out His mission, and an angel appeared to Him to minister to Him (Luke 22:43).
When we read this story, we maybe think: “So what? Will an angel appear when I give up?” Likely not. But what can we understand? Well, for one, God does strengthen His servants. It doesn’t mean an angel is going to show up, but when we’re following the Lord, He exercises a special grace toward us in building us up through His Spirit. In fact, it’s encouraging to remember that we have someone with us who’s greater than any angel—the Holy Spirit. He helps us in our weakness (Rom. 8:26).
Second, we can acknowledge that life often brings circumstances that are incredibly difficult. They require fortitude, endurance, and patience. We shouldn’t be surprised by discouragement. This world is riddled with sin, is filled with forces that are opposed to God, and often exhibits a general chaos. The Psalms are filled with acknowledgments of distress, deceit, and confusion (e.g., Pss. 3; 7; 120). Knowing that, we can admit that this world is often too much for us. We can tell God what’s happening and ask Him for help. It’s only through trusting the Lord and giving our lives to Him that we find any peace. And if we do give up, God won’t give up on us (John 6:39; Phil. 1:6).
Finally, we can understand that wishing for death isn’t completely contrary to Scripture when understood rightly. I don’t mean suicide here; if you struggle with suicidal thoughts, please know that you’re not alone. Seek the help of a pastor, counselor, or friend. There’s hope and light to be found, though the darkness is overwhelming. I also don’t mean that Elijah was right to ask God to take his life. But rather, strangely enough, Jesus sought His own death to accomplish His mission—a death for us. Christians are also called to live sacrificially; to “give up” for the sake of God and others (Rom. 12:1). We’re to put our old selves to death and live for Christ (Gal. 2:20).
After this episode, Elijah was strengthened for forty days, and He came to a cave. The Lord met him there in a still, small voice—that is, a whisper (1 Kings 19:12). He told Elijah he was not alone, that He had saved thousands who still follow the true God. By saying this, God reminded Elijah that He wasn’t working only in Elijah’s life; He was working in other people’s lives. He had a plan; Elijah just didn’t know it. So basically, He’s saying: “I’m in control. I’ve got this covered.”
God is at work in us, too, but He’s also at work elsewhere. He’s working in and through other people and circumstances. We don’t have the perspective to see all that He’s doing. We’re small, but God is big. It can sometimes be hard to hear Him; hard to feel His strength. We sometimes want to give up, and sometimes we do. But He’s always there working—in our lives, in others’ lives, and throughout history—for my good, your good, and, ultimately, for His glory.
Don’t give up. He’s got it covered.