I’ve learned a thing or two about toddlers over the past decade. They have high highs and low lows. They easily fall over and face first, and when they start to cry, they don’t waste time whimpering softly, but rather they tend to let out an ear piercing wail for all to hear.
Their meltdowns most often occur in busy well populated areas when your hands are holding silly things like groceries. And in that moment, their upset little bodies are usually really just in need of some good food and some solid sleep.
I taught Sunday school last weekend, and sure enough as it usually does, the lesson for the kids was also exactly the lesson I needed to be reminded of.
1 Kings 19. Elijah is running from evil Queen Jezebel, who wants to kill him. He’s defeated and discouraged, depressed and weary, and feeling completely alone.
Have I ever felt that way too? Of course I have. I’m not going to judge Elijah for a second for giving way to his defeated spirit.
He collapses underneath a huge tree and just asks God to please make it end. “It’s too much, I can’t do this anymore. This is not how I thought it would be, alone and struggling.”
He needed to get rest.
At a certain point, when you are far too exhausted, sleep WILL take over.
Just the other day my toddler fell asleep sitting straight up on the couch halfway through an engaging reading of Peter Rabbit. His head leaned to one side and his eyes closed tight. Sleep had overtaken him, and his phrase of, “I no nap, I not tired!” was no longer true.
So sleep wins eventually, we’ve established this. But the story goes on to tell us that God immediately sends an angel to meet Elijah precisely where he’s at… asleep, still discouraged, and under that tree.
He needed to get fed.
“Get up and eat!” The angel says. Suddenly there’s hot bread and a jar of water by Elijah’s head, which he eats before he passes out again; because after one quick meal the exhaustion doesn’t leave him. He’s human like the rest of us I guess. “Nope… that 45 minute power nap sure didn’t make up for the past few months, or even years.
A second time the angel says to him, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he set off to meet with the Lord.
He needed to get in the presence of God.
Elijah then has an open and honest conversation. He shares his discouragement and frustrations, and our all knowing God asks him questions that he already knows the answers to. Why? Because he cares about us, and every last detail of our lives. He wants us to pour out our hearts before him, and then he wants to refresh us, and help us move forward again.
When my toddler collapses in a meltdown I don’t just leave him there, although the thought may have crossed my mind once or twice depending on the exact scenario… Good thing I’m not the Lord.
No. He’s my son, and I know what he needs in that moment. I pick him up. I give him his soother, his dearly loved blanket, his water bottle, and his favourite bowl of cereal with extra granola on top. And then I wrap him up in my arms and hold him tight until I can feel his tense worn little body start to relax.
Parenting. It’s given me whole new insight into the intense love, patience, and care that God has for his children.
But back to the Elijah story. God doesn’t just listen and tell Elijah, “Hmmm, yes… that sounds hard for you, but you need to quit your whining and get back to work.”
He needed to get help.
God gives Elijah direction on how to lighten his load through appointing some other people to help him out, and he tells him to go find Elisha and make him his successor. God gives him a much needed companion; somebody to help carry his load.
And after all that…
He needed to get back to the work he had been given to do.
After I read this story I paused and thought, “My goodness… God knows exactly what we need, often before we know ourselves, and he can and will provide. Maybe even especially when we’re completely defeated and void of all our strength.
Photography by: Katie Mills Photograpy