Elijah, the prophet, lived a life punctuated by powerful encounters. In his first recorded interaction, he confronted the idolatrous King Ahab. Elijah prophesied it would not rain in Israel except by his word (1 Kings 17:1). Then, on God's command, ravens fed Elijah, and later a widow on the brink of starvation fed him. By God's provision, her meager supply of oil and flour sustained Elijah, the widow, and her son throughout the famine. Her son eventually died; enabled by God, Elijah revived him (1 Kings 17:17-24).
Three-and-a-half rainless years later, Elijah and Ahab met again. The king attributed the trouble in Israel to Elijah, who countered by saying Ahab was the troublemaker! Then Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to a bake off on Mt. Carmel, saying, “The God who answers by fire, he is God” (1 Kings 18:24, ESV). Despite the priests' dramatic cries and self-mutilation, their sacrifice to the false gods remained untouched. Elijah saturated his sacrifice, the wood, the altar stones, and the surrounding moat with water three times. He prayed for people to know that the Lord is God. The fire God sent from heaven completely consumed the altar and everything on it. Later that day, Elijah slaughtered the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40).
When Ahab told Queen Jezebel what Elijah had done, she threatened to kill Elijah by morning. Elijah ran into the wilderness, stopped to rest under a tree, and begged God to let him die (1 Kings 19:1-4).
Like Elijah, nurses often respond to enormous challenges with courage and composure. In times of prolonged crises, whether natural disasters or pandemics, our capacity for overcoming difficulty can seem miraculous. But eventually exhaustion can overtake us as suddenly as it did Elijah.
Elijah's prayer request offers a clue to the condition of his heart, “O, LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4, ESV). Given the magnitude of the signs and wonders he had experienced, could Elijah have begun to consider himself uniquely favored by God? Had he begun to overestimate his part in the mighty works the Lord had done through him? His terrified response to Jezebel's threat reminded him he was no different than another human. No wonder he felt despondent!
Elijah rested and ate, and being physically renewed, he journeyed 40 days further to a cave near Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:5-8). While there, God asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9, ESV). Elijah described his faithfulness to the Lord in contrast with the idolatry of his people. He even boasted that he was the only faithful one left in Israel (1 Kings 19:10).
When we think of ourselves more highly than we should, it is easy to devalue the significance of others. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3, ESV).
God told Elijah to step outside the cave. A strong wind tore the mountains and split rocks. An earthquake came and then fire. But God was not in them. There is no record that any of these experiences moved Elijah. Only in the sound of a thin silence, a low whisper, did Elijah finally hear God. And when he heard, he responded so deeply, he hid his face (1 Kings 19:11-13). Like Moses (Exodus 3:6) and the angels around God's throne (Isaiah 6:1-2), Elijah was careful not to look at God.
This silent encounter with Almighty God transformed Elijah. God commissioned him to anoint the next prophet and two kings. And lastly, God corrected Elijah's misconception that he was the only faithful one left, telling him there were 7,000 Israelites who never had worshipped Baal (1 Kings 19:18).
QUESTIONS FOR NURSES TO CONSIDER
- What situations in nursing lend themselves to viewing ourselves as heroes? What can this thinking produce over time if left unchecked?
- If heroic efforts and outstanding outcomes can persuade us to think more highly of ourselves than we should, how might the warning of Romans 12:3 apply to nurses?