Are you in the midst of a financial crisis? Grief-stricken over the death of a loved one? Trying to revive a crumbling marriage? Dealing with a negative medical report? Facing the loss of your job? The trials of life can deal you a real blow. Some can momentarily render you frantic.
But I have good news for you. You can release the miraculous power of God into every difficult situation you are facing through obedience to His Word.
I am speaking from experience. At a certain point in my life, I was in despair because I was faced with a series of critical situations that shook me and interfered with the flow of the Spirit in my life. Being a “take charge” person, I thought I had to come up with the answers. I found myself making major decisions before waiting in God’s presence for direction.
A red flag went up several times, but my flesh didn’t want to relinquish the control I thought I had to have in the decision-making process. As I moved in my own strength, I began to feel helpless and alone. The negative emotions I was fighting depleted my physical energy level.
Then early one morning, the Lord awakened me and directed me to a powerful passage I had read many times: 1 Kings 17:1-24. This time I was impacted as never before.
Obedience During Despair
The passage tells about two very different individuals who met in a city called Zarephath. Both were in the midst of despair. One was the prophet Elijah; the other was an unnamed widow woman.
The prophet Elijah, a Tishbite, had approached King Ahab and reproved him for the idolatry and wicked ways he had adopted due to the influence of his pagan wife, Jezebel (v. 1). Because of the idolatry, God told Ahab through Elijah that it would not rain for a certain number of years (3 1/2, according to Luke 4:25).
The anger of Ahab was fierce against Elijah, so God commanded the prophet to flee. He first sent him to the brook called Cherith (1 Kings 17:3). There God commanded the ravens to feed him day and night. He drank from the brook until the brook dried up (vv. 4-7).
Then the word of the Lord came again to Elijah: “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you” (v. 9).
When Elijah arrived in Zarephath, there was indeed a widow woman at the gate of the city. She was wandering in the streets, gathering sticks for a fire to prepare her last meal before she and her son died. She was poor and in despair. But God had prepared both hearts to encounter one another.
Elijah immediately called for her to get him some water in a vessel (v. 10). He also asked her to “please bring [him] a morsel of bread” (v. 11). The widow explained that she had only a bit of flour and that she needed it for herself and her son, but Elijah assured her that if she served him first, she would not run out of provisions (vv. 12-14).
The widow obeyed the prophet. As a result, “She and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah” (vv. 15-16).
When you consider the despair Elijah must have been experiencing because of his run-in with Ahab, you can imagine how humiliating it was for him to travel to a pagan city to be taken care of by a widow woman. But he humbled himself and obeyed God.
Undoubtedly, it was difficult for the widow to obey, also. Whether her husband was really dead or had just abandoned her, we don’t know. But either way she was forced to assume the responsibility of providing for her family—and had reached the end of her supply.
At this tragic point in her life, the prophet came along and boldly commanded her to give him the last of what she had. Her challenge was to obey and serve him or to continue gathering enough crumbs for her own last meal.
The decision she made was providential. In the midst of her trial, God remembered her obedience and sustained her.
Elijah stayed in Sidon for 2-1/2 years. He returned to meet with King Ahab at the top of Mount Carmel. God sent down fire, and the prophets of Baal were put to death. The drought ended with a great storm at the command of the prophet.
You see, God orchestrates events that can come about only through His divine intervention. Our obedience gives Him full control in our lives so that He can “[work] in [us] both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).