There is this basic theological belief that God is infinite and we are finite. God can do all and we cannot. God knows all and we do not. God is everywhere and we are not. In fact, we are very much here within our physical, emotional, and psychological limits.
But sometimes we forget. We forget that we’re finite beings with defined limits. We forget that we literally cannot do it all. Yet, we expect that we can and should. And there are times in our lives when we are even more limited than others.
We are limited when we are feeding a baby 8 hours a day.
We are limited when we’re sick.
We are limited when our kids get sick.
We are limited when we only get 5 hours of sleep a night.
We are limited when we’re pregnant.
We are limited when we’re human – which is all the time! Thankfully, we’re in good company with people like Elijah. Elijah who one day was used by God to display God’s power in fire and might and the next day was running for his life in great fear from the queen, Jezebel. Here’s his story:
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by the food, he traveled forty days and forty nights…
The Angel of the LORD in Scripture is believed to be a manifestation of God Himself. Some believe it is Jesus pre-virgin-birth. Whatever the case, God Himself visits Elijah in the midst of his fear and exhaustion and cares for His physical needs with food and deep sleep. Why? Because it was all too much for Elijah to handle on his own.
I see great mercy in God’s care for Elijah. Elijah, in one sense, has completely given up. He has run away from the work God had for Him out of fear. He has asked God to take his life, desiring death over life.
And what does God say to Him in return?
Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.
Not, “Pull yourself together!”
Not, “Shame on you for running.”
Not even, “You can do it.”
Instead, God acknowledges Elijah’s limitations and weakness and shows him compassion, caring for his needs. Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you. God gave Elijah exactly what he needed, nourishing food for his body and a supernatural sleep that refreshed and strengthened him.
Here’s what I’m thinking, we all have those days, right? Those days when our weaknesses and limitations are more apparent to us than our strengths and abilities. What do we do on those days? Do we try to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and continue on in our exhaustion? Do we lie down and quit in depression and hopelessness? Or do we cry out to God, the one who knows that we are but dust, the one who created us and knows we are not infinitely capable of doing anything alone. The One who says, Get up and eat. The journey is too much for you. Strengthening us with rest and nourishment.
And do we listen to Him? Do we take care of ourselves in our limitations? Do we listen to our bodies that tell us to just stop working so hard and to rest in God’s care? Do we depend on Him to strengthen us, turning to Him each day for our needs?
I have recently begun to do these things. Instead of working at 150% strength every moment of ever day, I have slowed down to about 90%. Instead of worrying about my plans for the future, I am practicing being thankful for God’s provision today. And let me tell you, the strangest most wonderful thing has happened, by honoring my weakness I feel stronger.
What about you? How can you honor your limitations, loving yourself in the midst of them?
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9