The phone rang, and a friend called. She was feeling low, and unable to cope: could she come and spend a couple of days with us? "Yes! Of course! We'd love to see you!' I heard my voice say. After a few more minutes of chatter I put down the telephone and slumped into a chair. I was exhausted! I felt I had nothing left to give that would be of any help to my friend, who was going through a marital breakdown. We had a new baby, I was still recovering from flu, we were trying to plan a major seminar for the following week, and our church was going through a severe crisis. I wanted to go somewhere quiet and bury my head in the sand. To be honest, the last thing I needed was to spend two days in intense counseling with my friend. I needed someone to give me a bit of a lift, too.
"Dear Father, help me. I feel drained of any energy to cope with Susie. I don't know how I can be of any use to her. I barely have enough strength left to cope with my own life right now. If you are sending her to us for a purpose, then please fill up my reserve bank, so I can make it through the next few days. Thank You. Amen." I picked up my Bible to try and find something in it that would give me a few more inches of rope to cling to before I reached the end of my tether.
I found this story. A familiar story. But now it had a fresh meaning as I sat at the kitchen table, with my tank running on "empty".
Once there were two people who were at the end of their ropes. There was Elijah, sitting, hungry and parched, by the dried up brook... at the end of his resources... at the end of his road. And there was a widow... at the end of her flour... at the end of her oil... at the end of her hope/
By themselves they could do nothing. Each looked doomed to die. Both must have glimpsed more than a little despair, and wondered what God could possibly do to save the situation.
Apart, their lives seemed hopeless. But God brought them both together, there, outside the village of Zarephath. Elijah was almost fainting from fatigue and hunger; the widow may have been weeping as she collected the twigs together to fuel her last meal. God brought them together, and gave them hope. Even though they may have reached rock bottom from an earthly perspective, they still clung to their faith in God.
Elijah needed faith to leave the safe haven of the brook. The widow needed faith to believe that if she fed this strange man first, there would still be food for her own family. And through their faith they were preserved. But they also needed each other. God provided for them both in a way which made them interdependent on each other, as the flour and oil continued to flow from the widow's earthenware jars will the famine finally ended.
Susie came. "I don't want to talk about anything right now; I just need to get away and have a bit of a break. Why don't we go shopping? I'll cook the dinner; you've got your hand full with the children. And when they're asleep, maybe you could show me how to do some stenciling..." We talked and chatted, laughed and had fun together. She played with the children, and gave me time to rest, too. "I'm so glad I came here," she said when it was time to go. "I always feel refreshed after I've been with you and the children/ I feel I have much more energy now to take home with me, and maybe I can start again with John."
Sometimes we come to the end of our ropes, our brooks, our oil jars. We may feel, as the widow might have done, that the last thing we need is another mouth to feed. Or we may feel like Elijah, and now want to leave the comfort of the brook, and face the dangers of the world again.
Famines may touch our lives. Emotional famines. Spiritual famines. Just at the times when we feel we have nothing left to give, God may bring us into contact with another "starving" person. Our natural instinct may be to withdraw, to preserve whatever we have left for our own use. But even in our own times of famine, God can use us to be a channel of His blessings to others. Our own weakness and lack of personal resources can mean that we are more open to being used by God to help others in need. And He will not let us down. He will make sure that there is always just enough oil and flour in our storage jars until the famine in our lives has passed once more.
Dear Father, when I feel weakest, help me to remember to turn to You for strength. When I don't feel strong, You are more able to channel Your great power through me, and I know it's You who are doing the wonderful things, and not I. Thank You for the times of weakness, because they let me feel more of Your power, and help me to depend on Your strength always, even when I naively feel I can cope on my own. Amen.
Can you think of any times when God has used you, in spite of your apparent weakness, or maybe even because of your weakness?
We all face many challenging moments when we feel vulnerable and exhausted. What do you do to help yourself cope in times like these? Make a list of things that you can do that will help to pick you up when things get tough.
Make a Promise List of texts you find particularly encouraging. Collect them as you find them, and keep them handy so you can memorize them. Copy the list to share with someone else.
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