Have you ever had to run for your life? I’m guessing that with the exception of the military and first responders, most of us have never been confronted with a situation that was so life-and-death threatening that we literally had to run. I have run for the train, run for an elevator, I have evacuated my home during a Cat 5 hurricane warning, and even run a half marathon. But I consider myself blessed that I have never had to run for my life.
As a child, I had persistent dreams that I was in some life-threatening situation where I had to run, only to discover that my feet were cemented to the street. Have you had that dream? These dreams involved oncoming tornadoes, War of the World alien intruders, or some other terrible thing. When the threat appeared, I would look down at my feet and realize that I was stuck to the ground, unable to flee.
I think that while most of us have probably not been in any physical danger that would cause us to run, some of us may struggle with mental or emotional threats that leave us feeling paralyzed. I know a woman who is so paralyzed by her anxiety and subsequent paranoia that she has retreated to a place on the opposite coast from her family and cannot engage with them. Some fear tells her to keep running from any relationship with them. In her mind, even the smallest interaction would entangle and trap her.
Fears like this are as real to the person as an actual tornado coming down the street.
Our story today involves the great prophet Elijah at a time when he had to run for his life:
1 Kings 19 (Common English Bible)
19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal’s prophets with the sword. 2 Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your life like the life of one of them.”
3 Elijah was terrified. He got up and ran for his life. He arrived at Beer-sheba in Judah and left his assistant there. 4 He himself went farther on into the desert a day’s journey. He finally sat down under a solitary broom bush. He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” 5 He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.
Elijah did what we need to do when we feel threatened: he got to a safe place and called on the Lord. Even though he felt he was at the end of his life because of the enormity of this threat looming over him, he knew to first call on God.
And God answered:
Then suddenly a messenger tapped him and said to him, “Get up! Eat something!” 6 Elijah opened his eyes and saw flatbread baked on glowing coals and a jar of water right by his head. He ate and drank, and then went back to sleep. 7 The Lord’s messenger returned a second time and tapped him. “Get up!” the messenger said. “Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you.” 8 Elijah got up, ate and drank, and went refreshed by that food for forty days and nights until he arrived at Horeb, God’s mountain. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
This story is a beautiful reminder that whenever we feel so threatened that we have to run, God is always there to provide safety, sustenance, and strength for the journey. Elijah received the ministrations of an angel and was given fresh baked flatbread and water…twice. God will provide what we need even in the worst circumstance if we remember to run toward him as we run away from the threat.
Are you running away from something? What are you running toward? When real threats come into your life, safety is the first concern. And remember that God is in every circumstance, running alongside of you until you reach safe harbor.