Lutheran Church Extension Fund

Elijah: Stress (and Support) from Unexpected Places!

Reading time: two minutes. Elijah’s retreat under the broom tree and into the cave in 1 Kings 19 is a wealth of wisdom for church workers concerned about their own wellbeing. Let’s look at eight of my favorite nuggets of blessing before Lent begins! What do Jezebel and the angel of the Lord have in common? Nothing, except that they both had messages for Elijah. After the smashing victory on Mt Carmel, Elijah ran as an escort before Ahab’s chariot, presumably as a sign that he thought the King was ready to repent of his sins. The prophet could have expected, and should have expected, a word of blessing and support from the Royal Palace. Instead he got a curse. The blessing from the angel was equally unexpected. Jezebel said,  “May the gods deal with me be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like one of [the prophets of Baal].” Prophets, priests and kings were supposed to all be on the same team: servants of the Lord. The Queen played for the opponent. Church workers are often blindsided by a lack of support, and not infrequently, words of bitter, harsh, biting criticism from the very people for whom they sacrifice so much in their call into ministry. It’s a heart-breaking fact of church life that those whom we might expect would be our greatest encouragers can surprise us with the most discouraging words. I hope you’ve never experienced that, but I expect that you have. I wish there were a way to prevent it from ever happening to you again, but there’s not. Our hope is found a few verses later when the devastated prophet Elijah, curled up under the broom tree ready to die, is roused from his slumber by a touch from another entirely unexpected place: the angel of the Lord. And laying there right next to his head Elijah found “a cake of bread baked over hot coals” (sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?) and a jar of water. “Get up and eat,” the angel told him. At his lowest point, a surprise encourager showed up with a biscuit, a drink, and just the right word to set him back on the path to a continued life in ministry. He wasn’t done yet. His life was not over. Despair would soon turn to victory. Exhaustion was about to be replaced with vigor. Unexpected. But just in time. How many angels fit on the head of a pin? I forget, but I fully expect that your angels far outnumber your Wicked Queens. When the Queen takes a whack, seek out your angels. Let someone know, “Hey, I could use a donut, a drink and a word of blessing.” Thanks for reading. Do you serve in a multiple staff setting in a church, Lutheran school, university or social service ministry?  Discover how a Ministry Team Wellness Workshop can help enhance your team ministry by building the unity, spiritual life and communication essential to partnership in ministry.  Contact Program Director Darrell Zimmerman for more information.