Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. — I Kings 19:5-6 (NIV)
We live in a busy culture. One author summed up modern life with this poem:
THIS IS THE AGE
OF THE HALF-READ PAGE
AND THE QUICK HASH
AND THE MAD DASH.
THE BRIGHT NIGHT
WITH THE NERVES TIGHT.
THE PLANE HOP
WITH THE BRIEF STOP.
THE LAMP TAN
IN A SHORT SPAN.
THE BIG SHOT
IN A GOOD SPOT.
AND THE BRAIN STRAIN,
THE HEART PAIN,
AND THE CATNAPS
TILL THE SPRING SNAPS—
AND THE FUN’S DONE!
Believe it or not, this was first published in 1949. How much faster life is now. Even the internet age, which was supposed to “save” us time, now leaves many people drowning in a new phrase in the English language: “digital clutter.” If you have an in-box overflowing with unread emails, you know the feeling.
I Kings 18 in the Bible tells a fascinating story. Israel was torn between worshipping God and idols. Heart-broken and angry, the prophet Elijah asked the people, ““How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” (v. 21-NIV). In a showdown on Mount Carmel, about 850 prophets of the idols Baal and Asherah could not get any fire to fall on their altar. Most folks would be intimidated by 850 to 1 odds, but not Elijah. He confronted the false prophets, then when he prayed, fire from heaven fell and burned up not only the offering, but also the wood, stones, and water in a trench around the altar. Simply put, it was a worship service like none other!
However, right on the heels of Elijah’s huge spiritual victory, he had a crash. Somehow, as recorded in the very next chapter, he quickly fell into a severe bout of self-pity, burn-out, and depression. In fact, he sounded suicidal. “He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’” (19:4)
But then, notice what happened. Elijah “lay down under the bush and fell asleep.” He just hit “pause” and got some shuteye. At some point, an angel intervened, woke him, and said “Get up and eat.” Notice. The angel did not scold Elijah, or act like a travel agent for a guilt trip. Also, the angel did not command “Get up and read the Bible” or “Get up and pray” or “Get up and report to the temple at once.” The angel told Elijah to take care of his physical needs and eat. But the angel did not stop at a verbal command. Somehow, God miraculously provided goods in the desert during a drought, for “he looked, and behold, there was at his head a round loaf of bread baked on hot coals, and a pitcher of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again.” (19:6 NASB)
But there is more. The angel wasn’t finished. “But the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him, and said, ‘Arise, eat; because the journey is too long for you.’”
Notice how the angel very gently dealt with Elijah’s depressed state. There was no message of “shame on you” or “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” Instead, the angel told Elijah to meet his physical needs of sleep, eating, and drink, and even provided warm bread and water to be helpful.
In our busy age, we need the same self-care. With demands from family, work, friends, and just “life,” it’s easy to get over-extended. Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll says, “sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is get some sleep.” If our physical “gas tanks” are on empty, we cannot take care of ourselves well, let alone help anyone else. It’s unlikely an angel will appear in your life today. (Although, you never know. Lloyd Meade of Salem, Virginia reported seeing and hearing angels while in ICU.) But whether you receive angelic visitors or not, if you’re feeling worn down and overloaded, try this advice: “lie down…eat…drink.”