What do you do with moments of battle weariness in life and in ministry? The moment may come after great triumph, inglorious defeat, or during an extended sequence of months of working though the daily grind.
After we’ve spent ourselves for the Lord and for others, we find ourselves...well, spent. Shot. Exhausted. Ready to quit. Ready for heaven.
One of my seminary professors, Dr. Ed Robson, pointed us to Elijah for a simple, initial answer on such days.
The prophet Elijah labored under great duress. He declared to King Ahab that there would be three years of drought in ancient Israel; that's not exactly a formula to win friends and influence people (1 Kings 17). Elijah lived as a wanted man; Ahab searched everywhere for him. The Lord spared his life in a cave by the brook Cherith, where ravens fed him. Still, imagine the daily pressure of being discovered. He drank of that brook until in dried up. He suffered, along with the rest of the nation.
Following Elijah’s ministry to the widow at Zerephath, God sent him to confront King Ahab as recounted in 1 Kings 18. That was three years after his initial prophecy of drought, and he was not a popular man. Queen Jezebel had destroyed the prophets of the Lord. Even faithful Obadiah, who had hid one hundred prophets, was frightened to be sent to Ahab for fear he would be killed for his association with Elijah.
Obadiah went, and Ahab met Elijah. For Elijah’s faithfulness in serving the Lord, Ahab declared him the “troubler of Israel” when they met (1 Kings 18:17). The ensuing confrontation on Mount Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah resulted in the dramatic and public vindication of Elijah.
That ministry was emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Then after praying for rain, he ran on foot back to the city of Jezreel, outrunning Ahab’s chariot before the bountiful rains nourished the land.
The rain fell; the land was blessed. What did Elijah receive? Death threats from Jezebel, and her vow to avenge the deaths of the prophets of Baal through Elijah’s execution (1 Kings 19:1-3).
Elijah was afraid; he fled with his servant to Beersheba. Then, he fled farther into the wilderness alone. In spite of having seen the great power of God, he felt the heat of battle. He was wiped out and ready to give up. He even prayed, “O LORD, take away my life” before he sat under a broom tree and slept (1 Kings 19:4-5).
We can relate, if not fully, and so we can appreciate what God did next. An angel touched the prophet and said “Arise and eat.” After he ate and drank, he lay down and slept again. Then the angel fed him again and sent him to meet the Lord at Mount Horeb. There, the Lord ministered to Elijah's soul tenderly and personally. Having met with God, he re-entered the battle in service to God (1 Kings 19).
So what do we do to treat battle weariness? Don’t try to solve any problems in moments of greatest weakness and discouragement. Instead, cancel appointments, flip the laptop shut, and turn off the phone.
Follow God’s prescription for Elijah: Eat. Sleep. Get time with the Lord.
It's a simple solution. My old prof's words still ring in my ears and have profited me time and again: "Eat. Sleep. Get time with the Lord."
Then, like Elijah, get back into the battle.