Bob Tamasy: The Elijah Syndrome – And Each Of Us

Sunday, June 1, 2014 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Are you old enough to remember wringer washing machines? I’m talking about the kind with an agitator to jiggle the clothes around as they were washing, and a wringer to squeeze out moisture so the clothes wouldn’t be soaking wet hanging from the clothesline.

The clothesline? Really? Yes, but that’s fodder for another post. My mom had a wringer washer. She’d remove just-washed items from the basin and run them through the wringer to remove most of the water. (Not a good place for fingers.)

I wonder: Have you ever had a time in your life when because of work demands, or maybe life in general, you felt like you’d been dragged through a wringer like this?

Recently a friend mentioned feeling mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.
I’ve been there a couple of times. During one particularly stressful period at work, I had pushed the proverbial envelope as far as it would go. Physically depleted, I wound up with an illness that required heavy-duty medication and physician’s instructions to stay home and rest.

I did as advised, determining to salvage the time by catching up on reading I’d been putting off. For several days I’d sit down with a book, read a paragraph or two, and promptly fall asleep for a couple of hours. During those days I didn’t read nearly as much as I’d hoped, but got much-needed rest so I felt renewed and recharged when I returned to work.

Thinking about mental and spiritual exhaustion, I love the biblical account of Elijah in 1 Kings 18-19. In case you’re not familiar with the story, feisty prophet Elijah singlehandedly confronts 850 false prophets to a showdown. Elijah and the imposters prepare sacrifices on altars and then call upon their respective deities to consume the sacrifices by fire.

Despite elaborate demonstrations and even self-mutilations, the false prophets’ “gods” fail to respond. Elijah, after demanding to have his sacrifice and altar drenched with water three times for emphasis, calls upon Jehovah God and sees the entire offering instantly consumed – even the water in a trench around the altar. The false prophets, deceptions exposed, are then executed.

Next Elijah accurately predicts a torrential rain ending a three-and-a-half year drought. Quite an amazing day for the lonely ambassador for truth. A great demonstration of faith. But right after the downpour, someone informs Elijah evil Queen Jezebel has ordered his death.

That is the proverbial straw that breaks Elijah’s back mentally and spiritually, and he takes off running. He’s had enough. “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep” (1 Kings 19:4-5).

However, rather than chastising Elijah for having weak faith (as many preachers have accused him in their renditions of this story), God sends angels to minister to him, feeding him and letting him rest. “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’… He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time…and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you’… (1 Kings 19:5-8).

So why, after defeating hundreds of false prophets and predicting a miraculous shift in weather, does Elijah head for the hills at the news of Jezebel’s threat?

For starters he was human. Years ago Dr. Archibald Hart, in his book, Adrenalin and Stress, explained during major events in life – good and bad – the body’s stress hormones are activated. Enough stress, regardless of whether it comes from positive events like marriage, getting a job promotion, buying a house or becoming a parent, or negative events like financial hardship, the death of a loved one or losing a job, and we can become tapped out physiologically. It happens.

Elijah also must have felt as one of his successors, John the Baptist, would feel centuries later – like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness. He said, “’I have been very zealous for the Lord God almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken 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’” (1 Kings 19:14). Honestly, can you blame Elijah for reaching the end of his rope?

The good news is God did not denounce or discipline him. He understood the prophet’s physical limitations, letting him rest and feeding him. Then, when the prophet was restored, God said in essence, “Okay, Elijah, get back into the fray. And contrary to your opinion, you’re not alone!”

So while he might have fully depleted his physical, emotional and spiritual reserves, Elijah hardly lacked for faith in his God. If anything, the prophet displayed more faith than most of us could ever imagine. We often collapse even under minor burdens, while Elijah repeatedly put his own life on the line, trusting God to come through. Which He always did.

So Elijah offers a simple yet important lesson. When the press of life has taken away everything you’ve got, take a break. Then regroup, restore, and re-engage!

---

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at btamasy@comcast.net.

 





Wayne Pederson Is Keynote Speaker At AMG International 75th Anniversary

AMG International is celebrating 75 Years of International and Global Ministry on Thursday, Nov. 9, from 6:45-8:45 p.m. at the Chattanooga Convention Center.  Wayne Pederson will be the keynote speaker.  He is president emeritus and global ambassador of Reach Beyond in Colorado Springs, Co.  Special guests joining ... (click for more)

Steve Ellison: Murmuring

The great theme of the book of Numbers is my unfaithfulness against the backdrop of God’s great unchanging, unfailing faithfulness.  I can be expected to be self-willed, unbelieving, even rebellious.  God can be expected to be always faithfully providing, loving, leading, disciplining, and chastising. The book of Numbers identifies many sins of mine and the children of ... (click for more)

Janice Raper, 69, Killed In Accident On Lee Highway

Janice Raper, 69, was killed Sunday evening in a car accident on Lee Highway. Chattanooga Police responded at 7:54 p.m. to a traffic crash at 6800 Lee Highway. A Toyota Sienna, driven by Ms. Raper was traveling northbound, attempting to make a left turn onto Hickory Valley Road.  A Dodge Challenger, driven by Charise Nash, 26, was traveling southbound on Lee Highway, ... (click for more)

Home On Standifer Gap Road Damaged By Fire Monday Morning

Chattanooga firefighters responded to a house fire at 6731 Standifer Gap Road a round  9:30  a.m. on Monday . Battalion Chief Brandon Schroyer said the first arriving firefighters with Quint 8 encountered dark smoke coming from the basement. The firefighters attacked the fire quickly, using hand-held hoselines to extinguish the fire within a few minutes.  ... (click for more)

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Myth And Fact Check

My husband and I recently had the privilege of participating in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Chattanooga. I listened as my husband told the audience about how his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was nine and how she died from the disease when he was fourteen. As a child, my husband didn’t understand what breast cancer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Evil This Way Comes

There is a line in Act IV of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, as some of the 20,000 students at Middle Tennessee State are taught, that reads: "By the pricking of my thumbs / Something wicked this way comes." The professors explain that in the 16 th century the “pricking of thumbs” meant an intuition of evil about to happen and every student at MTSU knows several white supremacy ... (click for more)