I’m feeling very sad today. It’s evening, and I’ve just finished teaching my last workshop as an independent consultant. I’ve taken a job working with a ministry in another country, and the unfamiliarity of my new surroundings is making this transition even more difficult for me.
To make it worse, in a about an hour, I’m having one last dinner with a man who has become my dear friend over the years. We’ve shared many dinners together after facilitating programs in places like Nigeria and Russia and South Dakota, where no one speaks your language, so you have no one to talk to but each other. I don’t do goodbyes well. This is hard.
I think I understand a little about how Elijah felt.
One sentence after he’s introduced to us in 1 Kings 17, God tells Elijah to hide from King Ahab in the Kerith Ravine. (He had to hide, because he had just told Ahab that there would be no rain in Israel until he (Elijah) said so. And Ahab was a bad dude. He had lots of ways to make you say so if he wanted you to.)
During the time of his exile, Elijah drank from the brook in the ravine, and the ravens brought him bread and meat every morning and evening. Probably wasn’t the best (or most sanitary) stuff he had eaten, but it beat starving. We don’t know how long God had Elijah down there, but verse 7 tells us that “some time later, the brook dried up…” It was Elijah’s own fault – he had called off all the rain – and now he had to find someplace else to live.
My brook has just dried up. I got into consulting three years ago, and at the time, it felt like we (my wife and I) were doing something really bold for God. I had quit my job of fifteen years on faith. We believed that God was telling us to go, and we went. In the beginning, there were no clients, and there were no savings to draw from. We stepped out into thin air.
And God, who is wonderfully faithful, provided for us during the coming years. I didn’t always make great money, but I made good money and we got by. We didn’t have health insurance, but our family stayed healthy. I travelled a lot, but I also had lots of time at home. It was nice, and it became very comfortable.
But then the brook dried up.
For five months this year, I had no work at all. I enjoyed being home and being the involved father, but no money was coming in. For a long time, I stood looking at the dry brook waiting for it to start flowing again. I prayed that God would give it back to me. I prayed that He would show me another brook where I could camp. I prayed that He would just give me my own water tower so that I didn’t have to worry about whether or not the brook flowed. His answer was apparently, “no.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever had a brook dry up on you. It happens when God’s provision stops coming from a particular direction. He was supplying your needs in one way, but then He stopped. He doesn’t always tell you why, but He’s giving you a signal. “It’s time to move on. I’ve got something new for you to do.”
Losing your brook can be particularly frustrating. You were comfortable. Things were just beginning to work well. You were getting good at doing what you were doing. You were making plans to build a house near your brook so that you could stay there forever. Then…surprise! He took it away.
I won’t assume that I know the ways of God. He does some things for unsearchable reasons that only He knows. But I think I understand why He sometimes takes our brooks away.
It’s precisely because we are comfortable that God dries up our brook. When we get comfortable, we are no longer growing or having an impact on our environment. By drying up the brook, He gets us up off our blessed assurance and forces us to search out His provision in another place.
When Elijah’s brook dried up, God didn’t send him to a new brook; He had something different in mind. God sent Elijah to Zarephath to rescue a widow and her son from starvation. Some time later, the son died and Elijah interceded to bring him back to life. Some time after that, Elijah glorified God on Mount Carmel by calling fire down from heaven whent he prophets of Baal could not. Then, he prayed and ended the drought. Still later, he annointed several kings and selected Elisha to follow after him.
What if Elijah had never left the brook? What if he had kicked the dirt and moaned to God about how much he liked and deserved the brook? Think of all the miracles he would have missed doing on God’s behalf. Think of what would have happened to the widow and her son. Think of the victory that wouldn’t have been won against Ahab’s prophets or of the mantle that wouldn’t have been passed to Elisha, who had double the annointing of Elijah on his ministry.
It doesn’t do us much good to complain when God dries up our brook. It’s okay to be sad, but the sooner we get up and get moving, the sooner He can show us what else He has in mind for us to do. I can almost guarantee it won’t be more of the same. God only fed one prophet at the side of a brook, and He only did that for a time. Be prepared that God might be doing something totally new in your life, and trust that He knows exactly what He’s doing.