When you’re despondent

Tuesday’s government announcements were tough to hear. There’s no easy way to respond to a long extension to the current strict restrictions, school holidays brought forward during this time of isolation, and the prospect of city wide testing and large scale isolation. Maybe, like me, you feel quite down. If so, how do you deal with being despondent?

The prophet Elijah had his times of dejection. After the victory against the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel, he expected better times. Things didn’t get better, they got worse. He had to flee for his life into the wilderness. He arrives at Mt Horeb, full of self-pity and so depressed that he wants to die. It’s at this mountain that he has an encounter with God (see 1 Kings 19).

I don’t want to press the similarities between our situation and Elijah’s too much, but we could perhaps relate with his sense of anxiety and fear, frustration, anger, and exhaustion. There are three principles that we can learn from Elijah’s situation and his encounter with God.

First, God is concerned for our burdens. When Elijah got to Mt Horeb, he was physically and emotionally spent. God doesn’t start a dialogue with Elijah straight away. Instead, an angel cooks Elijah a meal, twice. Sometimes, we forget that we need rest and physical care. Our sense of well-being is intimately linked to our self-care. Living during these restrictions is stressful, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Get some exercise (we can still go far walks), eat healthily, get enough sleep, get off your screens and read a book, call a friend.

Second, God speaks. Elijah wanted a spectacular sense of God’s presence. He expected it in a powerful wind, then an earthquake, then a fire. But God didn’t speak in these. Instead, he spoke in a gentle whisper. That’s how God works. He doesn’t normally speak through the spectacular. He speaks to us in his word. It’s in reading God’s word consistently and faithfully that we’re reminded who God is and what he’s done. It’s through receiving this reminder that our hearts are comforted and our fears abated.

Thirdly, God listens. God asks Elijah questions, “What are you doing here?”. He invites Elijah to pour out his heart. In doing so, Elijah’s fears and worries, priorities and burdens are uncovered. God knows how we feel. There’s no point hiding your thoughts from him. Very often, it’s through prayer that we come to a deeper understanding of ourselves. Let the temptation to worry serve as the divine alarm clock reminding you it’s time to pray. John Newton helpfully said, “We are never more safe, never have more reason to expect the Lord’s help, than when we are most sensible that we can do nothing without Him.”

it’s easy to be despondent at the moment, but let’s bring our difficulties to our sovereign and loving God

Let’s remember that we’re to be a praying community. There is no better measure of our trust and dependence on God than our inclination to come to him in prayer. Please use the means available at St Andrew’s to pray. Apart from praying with your Growth Group, you can send prayer requests to prayer@standrews.org.hk, and you can join with others each Wednesday for Morning Prayer online, and next Wednesday evening at our online Ash Wednesday service.

Yes, it’s easy to be despondent at the moment, but let’s bring our difficulties to our sovereign and loving God.