Run To the Place of Encounter!
Though we have shifted into a new year, new season, and even a new era, there are still many people who are picking up the pieces of their lives, and wondering if they will every see the puzzle of their life "put back together" or make sense. Others have experienced crushing disappointments, physical attacks, and deep betrayals. But God is doing a glorious and meaningful work as He releases hope, healing, and grace from Heaven in unprecedented ways.
God spoke to me recently as I reread the familiar story of the prophet Elijah. There are keys of breakthrough found in his story that will be helpful to those who find themselves in a similar place of confusion and pain.
In I Kings 18 we find Elijah in the famous stand off with the prophets of Baal. Elijah had just experienced one of the greatest highs of his ministry but it was about to be followed by the greatest low. How could this man who had courageously confronted the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah ( I Kings 18:19-46) now be found cowering beneath a broom bush in despair, uttering a death-wish prayer to the Lord? Elijah had encountered the Jezebel spirit and now felt utterly alone in his battle.
God sent an angel to care for Elijah when he was at this low point and the angel cared for his physical needs. He insisted that Elijah get up and eat. Isn't that how God meets many of us as well? We are expecting a great revelation and yet He may say, "You just need to get up and eat something." God knew what He had in store for Elijah and taking care of his physical body would prepare him to make the journey and be in a healthier place to receive from the Lord in the next encounter.
Elijah is at the end of his rope and ready to throw in the towel on his own life and ministry. The path of loneliness and continual rejection and threats from Jezebel and other enemies had finally taken their toll.
After his encounter with the angel, Elijah made the long journey to a place called Horeb, also known as the "Mountain of God." Horeb, sometimes called Mt. Sinai, was a significant place of encounters with God. We know that Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the books of law from God and it was also the place of the famous burning bush. It was to this historic place of encounters that Elijah headed, and it was there that we again find Elijah huddled in a dark cave awaiting an encounter with His God.
Do you have a place you go to meet God? Do you have a place in your history with God where significant encounters have occurred? I do, and can relate to Elijah's draw to go to that place where he knew others had experienced God's manifest Presence in a tangible way. Though Elijah had all but given up, something in Him was still believing that God would meet him there.
I feel that there are many in this place right now. The turmoil, tension, pressure, and confusion of situations and events have left many feeling bewildered and susceptible to the enemy's lies, taunts, and accusations.
As Elijah awaited his encounter he experienced a powerful wind, frightening earthquake, and then a fire. The word is very clear in saying that God was not in those things. But, Elijah did not give up and still he waited. And then he heard a whisper. The voice of God is a beautiful thing no matter how soft or how loudly He speaks!
We find as God broke through for Elijah and began the conversation with him He asked, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (I Kings 19:9b) Now, I know God knew why Elijah was there, but He gave Elijah the place he needed to voice his pain and his hurt. The questions of God may often be simple, but they are oh, so revealing. In Elijah's case, his response revealed the hopelessness and place of fear in which his heart had moved. God did not condemn him, but neither did He offer him sympathy or pity. If we look for sympathy or pity in our places of pain, we lock ourselves in a prison of ongoing rehearsal of the events that brought us to that point.
I see that some are tottering on a fence of decision right now. On one side is the choice to continue in the cycles of pain by embracing the temptation to relish the sympathy and pity that lock you into rehearsing the past. On the other side of the fence is the choice to step into the place of greater trust and encounter with the Lord. The Lord knew that Elijah needed an encounter with Him and He knows what we need, too.
For many, part of stepping into the new thing God is doing is a firm commitment to leave the past behind. When we leave the past behind we step into a realm of faith that doesn't demand that we know the "why's" of everything that has happened to us. There is great freedom in giving those questions to God and trusting Him with the rest of our story. We have this great and steadfast promise of our Father that He will work our "all things" together for good because we love Him and are called according to His purpose. (from Rom. 8:28)
These are great days of personal enlargement and growth. If you find yourself huddled in your own "cave" of a sort and feel as if you've been beat up one too many times, then like Elijah, go to that place of encounter. If you can, RUN to that place! Cry out to God and believe He will meet you. God is strengthening His people in this hour and bringing refreshment, fortification, and new life-giving perspective to His sons and daughters.
We know that we don't have to travel to find a place of encounter with God. The place of encounter may be in our own home, sitting on a park bench, or taking a walk on the beach. Our heart posture is what is important, and when our heart chooses to "run" to Him we find Him there, waiting to meet us and always ready to speak words of life and hope that have the power to transform us. God has encounters for His sons and daughters in this season, and it is in these encounters that God will release the shift in perspective and lifestyle that propels us into the fulness of the new things God has in store for the coming days and months ahead.