Life becomes so challenging sometimes that we would like it to come to an end
In the First Book of Kings, we find a dramatic story (see 1 Kings 19:1-12). The prophet Elijah gives proof to the worshippers of Baal that the Lord is the true God. In retaliation, Queen Jezabel threatens the prophet with taking his life in less than one day. Elijah is afraid and flees for his life. After walking a day’s journey into the wilderness, he just cannot keep going. The prophet sits beneath a broom tree and prays for his death: “Enough, Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors!” Then falls asleep to know no more.
How painful his anxiety is, that the prophet of God falls into depression and prefers to live no more! He falls asleep to avoid reality while ardently wishing to wake no more.
Elijah had devoted the last years of his life to serving God, going wherever he told him, saying whatever he asked, and doing whatever he commanded. Yet, suddenly, the prophet sees himself as nothing but a fugitive whose life is in danger. He feels alone, forsaken, sad, in danger, exhausted, and reaches his braking point — all he wants is to live no more.
There are times when life becomes a very heavy burden. Despite our effort, despite the many times we try, despite all we do, despite how long we wait, despite our prayers, we see no progress at all. When situations like this last long, we may reach our breaking point. Like Elijah, we fall into depression and only want to sleep to avoid reality. In the coldest moment, we make Elijah’s prayer ours, begging God to receive us into his kingdom. Why continue living if there is no solution? Why continue living when there is no hope of healing? Why continue living when love is lost? “Lord, remember me,” we implore with a broken heart that feels there is nothing left.
Yet, our will is not God’s will. Ignoring his prophet’s prayer, God sends an angel to awake Elijah — “Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!” — while setting at his head a hearth cake and a jug of water.
Even when we feel we cannot keep going, even when we believe nothing makes sense, God does not leave us alone. At our breaking point, he is present to feed us and to encourage us to go on — the journey ahead is still long. We need strength, and it comes from the bread God feeds us with. As he fed with the manna his people in the desert, as he fed Elijah with this cake, so God feeds us with the eucharistic bread. To keep going through the long journey ahead, we must continue nourishing ourselves with the Bread of Heaven that has within it all sweetness.
Elijah wished to die in a moment of depression. But, feeding himself with the bread sent by God, he continues his long journey until he reaches a cave. Outside, Elijah stands firm while a strong and violent wind rends the mountains and crushes the rocks, but the Lord is not in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake strikes the ground where Elijah stands, but the Lord is not in the earthquake. Then comes a fire consuming everything around, but the Lord is not in the fire. Elijah hears then the light silent sound of a calm breeze caressing him, and he finds God present in this breeze.
When life becomes such a heavy burden that all we wish is to sleep and avoid reality, or even worse, we wish to close our eyes and wake no more, let us never lose our hope. Let us feed ourselves with the Bread of Heaven to regain our strength and keep going, being sure that after resisting the tornadoes that shake our life, after remaining upright when an earthquake brings down all we have built, after enduring the suffocating fires, God will make himself present, tender and loving, in the light silent sound of a calm breeze caressing us.
Be passionate about our faith!
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - July/August 2019