Heavy and burdened.
Concerned and frustrated.
Weighted with responsibilities and cares.
These were some of my feelings as I entered our women’s retreat this past weekend. All over the world, many women from our OC International Mission family converged either singularly, in pairs, or in small groups to experience the Velvet Ashes Receive Retreat. For me, my role was to facilitate our team’s time in South Africa.
But was I really ready for this?
The first set of questions prompted a reality check. How was my heart? Was my soul prepared to receive something significant from the Lord during this time?
I didn’t know.
In all honesty, I felt a bit distant from my God and even though I was with ladies from my team, I felt alone as I considered the burdens, struggles, and challenges I have recently been experiencing.
How was that possible?
How can I be with a group of people that I care about and who care for me and still feel alone?
What was contributing to this sense of isolation? Frankly, many of my struggles have caused me to embrace an it’s-all-up-to me mentality.
If I don’t do it, who will?
Over time, I’ve told myself that my unique and exhaustive set of responsibilities and cares are mine to lift, manage, and carry through life – for as long as it takes. I had recently done a ton of heavy lifting and I was tired.
So, when I was prompted to read 1 Kings 18 and 19 and the story of the dramatic confrontation between Elijah, God’s prophet and Ahab and his Baal prophets, and then Elijah’s retreat to the desert, Mount Horeb and his encounter with the Lord, I wondered. What could the Lord possibly say to me through this particular Word?
After a significant time of study, this is the phrase that leaped from the page:
How crazy was that?
I highlighted the four words in my Bible.
I am the only one…
The prophet of God, the miracle worker, the faithful and obedient servant of God, when pressed by his God about what he was doing at Mount Horeb, Elijah replied,
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
New International Version, 1 Kings 19: 10
Elijah recited a laundry list of his convictions, his cares, his concerns, his responsibilities, and his current conundrums. His words resonated. The ‘it’s-all-up-to-me’ sense of duty and obligation was all too familiar. He felt alone in his faith and in his mission.
However, the circumstances in Elijah’s life, along with his belief that it-was-all-up-to-him, distracted him. His clouded view gave him a false and incomplete impression of how the Lord was at work.
Soon, thereafter, the Lord revealed to Elijah that he was not alone – not by a long-shot. In fact, the Lord was ready for Elijah to take leave from Mount Horeb and anoint two new kings who would serve the Lord in faith. It was also time for Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as the Lord’s prophet. And last of all, the Lord informed Elijah that there were seven thousand men, women and children in Israel who had remained true to the Lord and were following Him faithfully. He wasn’t the only one left.
There were over seven thousand people who were walking an obedient, faithful, hope-filled, and God-honoring path with Elijah. The crazy thing is that Elijah didn’t know it. He hadn’t understood that this massive support existed. Instead, he had become a bit too full of himself – in my mind – and a bit too prideful as he considered that it was all-up-to-him to keep lifting the name of the Lord up and carrying His message.
Others were ready to step up, to lift, and to carry the name of the Lord across the land and to the world as well.
After reflecting upon Elijah’s encounter and his time of revelation with his God, I came to my own moment of reckoning.
I asked, “Heather, have you been relying upon and looking to your own strength rather than humbly seeking the help of others and reverently seeking your God for your current needs?”
I continued, “Heather, why are you working so hard and trying to do all of these things by yourself?”
And, “Why are you attempting to be so strong, so together, and so able, when in reality, you are weak, tired, and worn out by these burdens?”
Finally, “Why do you feel like you are the only one left?”
You are not.
There are over seven thousand who are walking a similar path of faith and trust in Christ.
And that’s when a vision came to me. Somewhere near, somewhere far, somewhere intimate, and even somewhere way, way, way out there, is my faith team. I have a throng of over seven thousand people who are with me in heart and soul. They are loving and pursuing the same God. They are seeking the same Christ. They are loving and caring for others. And they are experiencing many of the same struggles, setbacks and challenges as me. They may feel like they are “the only one left” too.
We are not!
We may not know each other. But in God’s expansive view, He sees His faithful and He knows each and every one of us – inside and out. We are His seven thousand and more. And He is intimately at work in each of our lives for His glory, His purpose, and His praise.
The power and strength of one is not enough for us. We are 7000+ strong.
We are not alone.
And whatever we must do in our lives, we are not the only ones left to do it.
We have each other.
I am encouraged by this thought and vision – even as my challenges remain.
Are you part of my 7000+ strong?
Let’s keep walking forward in faith, in hope, in grace, in humility, and in peace as we honor and love others and our God. We are not alone in this effort.
We are 7000+ strong!
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