IPCA Blogpost July 2021 – “I’ve had enough Lord” (David Buick)
At times of fatigue I’m constantly drawn to the story of Elijah as he flees into the desert after being threatened by Jezebel. Can there be any of us who at one time or another have not echoed his prayer, “I’ve had enough, Lord” (1 Kings 19:4)? As chaplains, we are constantly giving – and also constantly receiving, although not in the same way. We receive people’s pain, suffering, uncertainty, fear, and anger – indeed, on some occasions, like Elijah, we receive threats. It’s not always easy to offload all that, and not surprising if we too feel we need some time out.
I love the way God deals with Elijah. After allowing him some rest, the first thing he provides is not a counselling session, but food and drink. Indeed, in many French translations, the angel God sends is said to provide a galette, a savoury pancake that is a speciality in the Brittany region of France where I live and work, so that always raises a smile for me.
Food and drink: God is present in practical details, and locally, individually, as well as worldwide. He “remembers that we are but flesh” (see Ps 78:39). Even as we perform our distinctive chaplaincy role as ministers of the presence of God, let’s not try to be more spiritual than he is! Let’s not neglect the practical and material aspects of our lives; God doesn’t.
The provision of food and drink occurs twice. I don’t know what was in the second galette, but it was enough to keep Elijah going for forty days and forty nights. Even when we’re experiencing burnout, God can keep us going from day to day as needs be.
It’s once Elijah has reached the mountain of the Lord that God speaks to him. As so often, God’s word comes in the form of a question: “what are you doing here?” That’s a good question to ask ourselves from time to time in our ministry, and the answer can come on multiple levels.
All of us our doubtless familiar with the way God responds to Elijah’s complaint through the “still small voice of calm”. God’s intervention can be spectacular, but more often than not, it’s discreet. It’s also worth considering the content of God’s message to Elijah: he renews Elijah’s commission, opens up the perspective of a successor, and reveals to him that he’s not as alone as he’d thought.
My prayer is that tired as we may be, God may whisper to us, renewing our sense of calling as chaplains, helping us to discern others who can join and perhaps one day replace us in this ministry, and enabling us to realise that the sense of loneliness we may often experience in this ministry doesn’t mean we are in fact alone.