Elijah’s burnout: Lessons to learn for ourselves

Elijah’s burnout: Lessons to learn for ourselves

Let’s look at the life of one of the most beloved and frequently cited figures from the Old Testament:  The prophet Elijah. If we follow the events that occurred in his life, 1 Kings, 18:4 to 19:18, we could summarize the highlights as follows:

  • First, he faced the wrath and threats of death by Ahab, king of Israel.
  • Elijah challenges Ahab face-to-face and accuses him of being responsible for the loss of the spiritual people of God.
  • Then, he asks for 850 priests of Baal and Astarte to gather against him.  He mocks their failure to obtain a response from their gods.
  • He built an altar to see the fire of the Lord descend from heaven to consume his offering in answer to his prayer.
  • This leads immediately after to a spiritual awakening of all the people of Israel who returned to their Creator.
  • He then destroyed the 850 idolatrous priests.
  • He is reconciled with the king and prophesied that the rain missing for three years will come very soon.
  • He began a marathon of prayer before God at the top of a mountain to advocate for the rain, and once again his prayer is fulfilled.
  • He runs down the mountain supernaturally carried by the power of the Holy Spirit, faster than the king and his chariot at full gallop.

All this happens, in a time period that seems to go from just a day, or at most a few days.  What a progress report! Who is the servant of God who is not interested in such an account of mission?  (Except maybe for the execution of the priests !) What service, what effectiveness for the kingdom of God.  Who would question the fact that Elijah was really, at that time, sent by God?

Yet, our Lord, in His wisdom, does not just show us the glorious life of his servant’s face, He also introduces us to the other side of the mask and reveals the drama that played at the same time in the heart of the prophet.

Some time later, when Elijah learns of death threats from the queen, his reaction is somewhat surprising.  While he seemed to be at the height of his ministry, confirmed by many miracles, he collapses psychologically and flees at the words of Jezebel.

He becomes unable to control his emotions, becomes depressed, feels sorry for himself, rejects his friends, and is isolated.  He sinks into despair, fear, and eventually wishes for death as a solution to his problems.

What has happened?  Is this the same man?  Elijah acts as if he had lost confidence in his God and the miracles he had seen accomplished had no value.

Further, we see he has a wrong perception of the spiritual condition of the people of Israel.  He feels alone and unable to share his burden with anyone. What happened to Him?  We would say today that he was a victim of exhaustion.  He was left totally consumed by his ministry.

The least we can say is Elijah, despite the high spiritual facts, did not lead a balanced life.  Living in extreme, always in a flurry of activity, he did not realize he had reached the personal boundaries of what he could endure emotionally and physically.He will eventually need to relearn his understanding of God and service to God.

What is the lesson we are interested in today? It unfortunately reflects a classic physical and emotional exhaustion experienced by many servants of God in the church.

Let’s see some numbers:

  • 75% of full-time servants report at least a major crisis due to stress every 5 years.
  • 70% are fighting against depression daily.
  • 80% of pastors ad 84% of wives say they are discouraged in their service.
  • 40% of them and 47% of wives report that they suffer from crazy schedules and unrealistic expectations of them.

My brother, my sister, do you find yourself in a similar “permanent race”?  Are you ready to sometimes give up everything? So, stop blaming or isolating yourself, and believe there are ways out of the crisis that you live in today.

Like Elijah, God has not finished with you.  He wants to reveal Himself to you, and bring balance into your life. As Moses understood before the burning bush, it is possible to serve God without being destroyed by the pressure and stress of the ministry.

Take heart, because Elijah was healed and recovered a precious intimacy with the Creator.

To be continued…

Eric Vincent DuFour

MICN Member Care Provider

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