The life of the believer can ultimately be an easier burden than the life of a sinner, as life in Christ is marked with “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Without Him, a person can only be a branch withering to nothing (John 15:16). However true this is, it does not mean that godly people will not suffer. In fact, we are promised that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). One particular type of suffering can afflict the godly, as it did the prophet Elijah – loneliness.
Elijah was an obedient servant of God and a man of deep passion. He did not waver in doing what God commanded him to do, even in the face of death. This obedience, though, did not spare him from immense challenges, both physical and emotional.
One of Elijah’s greatest displays of dedication to God came at Mt. Carmel. Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to a spiritual standoff of sorts – lay down an altar for Baal with no fire underneath, and I will lay one down for YHWH, he told them. They would see whose God would answer with fire. The people of Israel were confronted with a decision: who would they serve? While Baal had 450 prophets standing in his name, YHWH had only Elijah.
The prophets of Baal cried out to no avail, but YHWH answered with fire from heaven. After this divine display, Elijah called the people of Israel to grab hold of Baal’s prophets, and he killed all 450 of them. He alone remained, the one true prophet.
In retaliation for this embarrassment, Jezebel made threats on Elijah’s life and he was forced to flee. He travelled a great distance to Horeb (also called Sinai), the mountain of covenant with God. There, he would encounter God in the midst of his emotional collapse. He was so tired and felt so alone that he wanted God to kill him (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah must have looked to his right and left, seeing no one standing for the Lord, doing what was right. He must have felt that no one saw or heard him, that his cries were futile, that no one else loved God like he did. This is not how God saw things, though. God listed name after name and reassured Elijah that he was not alone (1 Kings 19:1-17). From political leaders to military, God had His hidden gems, His secret fellowship that He had been working on. Elijah could not see hope, but God never abandons us without hope. God said to Elijah, “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal.”
What we often fail to understand is that our lives are truly in God’s hands. Do you feel lonely? God has reserved someone out there to make a connection with you, to befriend you. He has opened other eyes to the truth, even when you don’t feel like anyone else understands. You may feel hopeless for a time, but don’t stay there. Don’t wallow in it. There is a family in Christ, and there are lost people waiting to be found. God is even calling you to make friends you don’t know yet. If Elijah had just stayed in the cave, he would have never found his friends. He would have never gone on to complete the works of his ministry or mentor the revered Elisha. God commanded Elijah to go and continue on his mission, and you must do the same. If you feel lonely, it doesn’t mean you are alone – it just means God is sending you forth to make connections you have yet to make.