Pastor Walt covered a lot today and there is no way I can cover it all in enough detail to do it justice, but short enough to not lose your attention. Instead, I will focus on the few points that really hit me.
The basic message was about how to deal with those times when we are dwelling in a cave; when we feel isolated from God, when we reflect on those down times in our life, when all we can see is the negative and we long for the days when things were better, when our faith/spirit was stronger.
We have been walking through the story of Elijah at church and there is a time when the mighty Elijah is literally dwelling in cave, trying to figure out what to do:
1 Kings 19:9-11
There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by…”
Elijah, the guy who, in the not so distant past, called down fire from heaven, is now sitting in a cave by himself having a pity party. Obviously, if Jezebel had threatened my life, I would be looking for a way to get as far away from her land as possible, but this is Elijah. He’s like the Thor of the Old Testament. In the Octagon, I would probably choose Elijah over Samson (yeah, he’s that tough).
Then God tells him to go outside, stand on the mountain, and wait for God to pass by. Elijah has to physically leave his cave (get out of his comfort zone), and go outside (expose himself to reality).
1 Kings 19:11-14
…Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Elijah endured hurricane force winds, an earthquake, and fire. Life must have seemed pretty tough right then. It must have seemed like there was no way he was going to make it through this ordeal. He must have wanted to run back into his cave and hide. But he endured it; he stayed out on the side of that mountain, and when the storms passed, he could hear the whisper of the Lord. The whisper sent him back to the entrance of the cave. God asked the same question. Elijah responded the same way; still confused about what direction to go. So God gave him direction. He gave Elijah tasks. He was to go out and anoint kings and find his replacement, Elisha. God made Elijah take his eyes off himself and put them on others. God sent Elijah out to find the people that could help him continue his work. Elijah could no longer do it on his own. He was facing something bigger than himself, and he needed help.
Elijah followed directions.
It’s not that we aren’t supposed to have cave times. We are. We can’t live our entire lives on a spiritual high. There will always be times when life brings us down. The trick is to know how to handle those cave times. I am definitely not an expert at this, but the text seems to tell us that we cannot dwell in the cave for too long. We have to get up, get out, and get on with life. We must endure the storm. Or, as Walt said, “swallow the pill” (Easier said than done).
Another thing I see here is that Elijah was still in communication with the Lord, and still willing to do what God asked him to do. When God said go outside, Elijah went. When God said go find these people, Elijah did. It’s when we turn our ear to God; when we choose to dwell in our cave with our thoughts instead of with the Lord that we find it harder and harder to move out onto the mountain side. And, if we are stuck in our cave, then we will never hear God’s whisper. And, if we never hear God’s whisper, then we are stuck in our cave.
We (Walt says) acknowledge that we are human (that junk happens), examine our perspective (something is holding us in our cave), re-route our lives according to God’s new map (we have to listen to the whisper), and get to work (get out of the cave and back into reality).
Sounds simple. Right?
What do you do during your cave time?