Sounds like a song title, doesn’t it. But the truth of it is present in almost every person with whom I have spoken when they have endured a great strain in life. Trials like the death of a father, spouse or child. Issues such as severe illness, financial ruin and legal traumas. The pain of deep conflict with family or dear friends from all kinds of stuff in life and more. These trials, whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual wound deeply. But once we have endured and overcome, what next? Often, once on the other side of the acute pain of recovery and the mundane things of life begin to fill all available time, there is a “blue” time, a time of doldrums when the excitement of life has not returned and it feels like it may not. The days when you can find yourself working or being busy and you just don’t feel anything, you’re just blue. You want to be happy and you can be pleasant to everyone around you, but inside you just feel dull, uninspired, dysphoric. Many would classify this as depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a temporary period in a person’s life where motivation to continue is hard to find and continued correction of the recent trials becomes difficult. It’s like trying to run in deep mud, tremendous exhausting effort with little forward movement.
So what to do? Soldier on! How very trite! Just keep on keeping on? How silly! Is that true? In a way it is, and was part of the council given to Elijah when he ran from Jezebel (1 Kings 19). Elijah complained to God, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (vs 10). What he said was true, mostly. Elijah became hyper-focused upon one person, Jezebel, and what might happen. He seemed to have forgotten the tremendous victory God gave at Carmel and the people’s response in allegiance to God. So he ran, as far as he could. Once at the mountain cave God proceeds to show Elijah that He is present everywhere in life, just not where we think. Not in the storm, the earthquake or the fire; but in the small quiet times of life. God then instructs “Go and return…” to the work which needs to be done and know that there are many others in this world who have experienced the same trial for whom I am caring (vs 15-18).
From Elijah’s trial we can see several important tasks to perform and decisions to make. First, God asks for self-examination, “why are you here?” This is not the eclectic question of self-awareness like some navel gazing monks would ask, but a real question, what is my purpose? We each have a purpose in life. Day to day living is required, but what more? We each have chosen to be God’s family, his chosen, his children and therefore live for him in the image of Christ (Col 3). One thing we could ask is, “what would Jesus do?” or “what would please God today?” I ask myself that question every day, even several times a day. It keeps the mind focused upward, on things above (Col 3:2 ). The purpose for life is often forgotten during the surge of trials and must be regained once the acute trouble is relieved. Personal re-evaluation is needed.
Second, we each have chosen an occupation, work to provide. Do it well! Just as Elijah was God’s prophet and instructed, “and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel…” do your chosen work. We show God in us when we work well and provide for our needs, the needs of family and others. I am not saying to “throw yourself into you work” and forget everything else. No! But we should work “as unto the Lord” (Eph 6:5-8) for this gives Him glory and He will return that to us in ways we cannot imagine (1 Kings 19:17, Eph 6:8).
Lastly, you are not alone. There are others who have experienced the same problems. Yes that is true even if you do not want to hear it; you are not unique in this pain. Quit trying to believe no one understands! Stop trying to stand out as the lone ranger of life and believe you can do it alone. You can’t, no one can. True you could “go it alone” and struggle through life alienating yourself from everyone around you. But is that what God wants for you, or anyone for that matter? Is that really a quality life? All of scripture screams, PLEASE NO! Life requires others. Look at all the “one another” passages in scripture. They all speak of every facet of life requiring others to balance and complete it. Besides, if you choose to “go it alone” you also leave out your greatest ally, God. The problem with looking for support from others is the exposure, letting others know how you feel, the depth of your pain, the weaknesses and struggles of your life. This exposure opens us to embarrassment and shame, something none of us want. Know that “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Pro 18:24). There is someone who will hold your confidences, guard your secrets, and has your back. Look for them, they are there, God has promised.
The result is clearly seen in Elijah. He found Elisha after this trauma and he became Elijah’s confidant and prophet replacement. The evil generation of Ahab and his cronies was eradicated by Hazael and Jehu. God will do the same for us. There will be strengthened relationships and God will be glorified in your life, in my life. The improvements in character, faith and spirit will be greater than can be believed. You then become that safe point for others and the cycle of life continues, just as God has designed. As the song says, “To God be the glory, great things He has done!” Stand up and soldier on. Yes, pull up the dogged determination to move ahead and improve. Don’t wait for everything else in your life to improve without your intervention. Soldier on! Set your mind on things above. Find joy in your life in the small things and the big things will come.
Ray Anthony Ritchie was a member of the McCaysville Church of Christ of McCaysville, Georgia. A native of Copperhill, TN, he passed away February 17, 2014 at his home.