Right now we are in the dry season in El Salvador. We are just about a month and a half into it, so everything is still lush and green. It truly is beautiful this time of year. But as the months pass, and no rains come, things start to change. The grass turns brown, the roads get dusty, and the rivers run dry. It’s the cycle of weather here, and part of life in this country.
Last week, in our kids camp at Gerardo Barrios we shared a story with the kids about a dry time in the life of the prophet Elijah. The prophet Elijah obeyed God’s call to take an unpopular message to King Ahab and his “charming” wife Queen Jezebel who were the rulers of Israel. They were leading God’s nation into all kinds of horrible sin, and God was not happy. So Elijah went to deliver God’s message. You can read about this little confrontation in I Kings 17:1-6. Elijah told the king and queen that all the rain was going to stop. They were about to enter a serious dry season. There would be no water, and no food, and dust would be all around. There would be famine and disease and death. This was going to be a dark time for Israel. So Elijah shared the bad news and ran for his life. I’m guessing Jezebel wasn’t too happy with Elijah after this conversation!
So Elijah went where God told him to go. He ended up hiding out in a ravine, and the Bible tells us he stayed there. Alone. Far from friends and family and life as he had known it. But God provided. God sent ravens to feed him, and God provided a brook which went right through the ravine. Israel was starving, but God was protecting and preserving the life of Elijah in the middle of this very dry season.
This is the story we shared with the children last week. We talked about the ways God provides and cares for his people, and it’s true that God does this. But Elijah’s story doesn’t end there. If you read on, verse 7 might shock you. It caught me off guard when I was reading it, when I really noticed it for the first time. The next sentence we read after hearing of God’s care for Elijah is this: “Some time later the brook dried up.” Um…what???? Elijah is stuck in a ravine in a drought and God’s special brook dried up???? If God could send ravens, why couldn’t He keep a brook flowing? How could God let that happen? Elijah gave up everything to follow God!! Why would God just ditch him like that? It almost seems cruel. Why was God letting Elijah suffer? Couldn’t God keep the brook running…I mean, He’s God!
I can imagine many of these thoughts might have been churning through Elijah’s head. I must confess that lately many of these thoughts have been going through my own head. I’ve had some struggles…with my health, and with my children and how they are doing here. Sometimes I just don’t understand how God can allow these things to happen. It’s hard to be far from friends and family and living in a foreign land. Some days l feel like I can hardly face the world and I wonder if God really cares. How can he let these things impact my life and ministry? How can He let the brook run dry? I don’t get it.
But Elijah moved on. He had to…the brook was dry. He was in the desert and the brook was dry. What could he do but follow the next steps God had for him? Ultimately Elijah had the opportunity to change the life of a dying widow and her son. They were starving, and God used Elijah to intervene. God did miraculous things, and God did not abandon Elijah. God provided in the middle of a famine. Not only for Elijah, but for others, through Elijah.
If the brook wasn’t dry, Elijah would still have been in the ravine, hiding out while the world suffered around him. But God had another plan and that included using suffering to move Elijah forward. God does this. He does it in the lives of those who follow Him and it seems so unjust, and it doesn’t seem right in our eyes, and we just can’t get on board with what God is doing. But maybe He’s preparing us, or calling us, or moving us on to other things…things that will change our lives and the lives of others.
I spend a lot of time trying to point others towards God…it’s part of the whole missionary job description. But the truth is, just because we’re following God and sharing Him with others doesn’t mean we will have smooth sailing on free-flowing rivers. I struggle to understand why God allows pain and suffering to come into our lives. It feels unfair and sometimes even cruel. But God is slowly teaching me that trusting Him means trusting that He is still God, even when the brook is dry. I hope that when you are in a dry place, you can know that too.