Hanging unto Hope
Then Elijah said to Ahab, "Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!" So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, "Go and look out towards sea." The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, "I didn't see anything." Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, "I saw a little cloud about the size of a man's hand rising from the sea." Then Elijah shouted, "Hurry to Ahab and tell him, 'Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don't hurry, the rain will stop you!" And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. (1 Kings 18:41-45) At the time that Elijah began to pray for rain, there was a severe famine and drought in the land that lasted for several years. God had brought the drought and famine due to the wickedness of the Israelites, in turning away to other Gods. God needed for the Israelites to understand that He was sovereign and in control. He had brought the drought and He would be the one to take it away.
As I read this passage recently, God highlighted to me Elijah's persistence and perseverance in what seemed to be a hopeless situation. At this point, the Israelites were about three years into this drought and there was not a rain cloud in sight. Yet, Elijah's faith, confidence and trust in God drove him to his knees to pray. Elijah continuously sends his servant to look out towards the sea. Six times his servant brings back a negative report. Not a rain cloud in sight. Elijah does not lose hope or determination. He simply prays again. On the seventh time, a small rain cloud, the size of a man's hand appears. Elijah knows that the rain is about to come. Sure enough, the rain begins to fall.
This summer, I went through a personal draught/famine of sorts. I was hit with some personal issues and trials that attempted to knock me out of the ring. I struggled to have faith and to keep my hope levels up. In the face of situations that had fallen through and unfulfilled promises, I felt discouraged and disappointed. Somewhere in the process, I guarded my heart against hope and stopped dreaming all together. I reasoned that if I didn't dream, I couldn't be disappointed. Another disappointment would be too much to take.
Interestingly enough, around this same time, the small group I attend started talking about dreams. We were instructed to write our dreams down. We would start working together as a group to begin stepping into the dreams God had given us. The last thing I wanted to do was to dust off the dreams I had buried deep in my heart so long ago. I got alone with the Lord and had a long chat with Him. God pointed out to me certain places in my life, where I had given up on hope when things got hard. He showed me where I had doubted myself so severely that I had shrunk back, instead of stepping forward into what He had called me into. He showed me where I had hidden behind the pretense of my spirituality, saying I was perfectly content, needing nothing more. In reality, I had built up walls, not daring to hope for anything more, in a vain effort to guard and protect my own heart. God revealed to me that I had failed to trust Him, during those times that it was important for me to trust Him the most. He had grace and mercy on me and invited me once more into the adventure of dreaming big dreams with Him. I accepted.
Since that time, I have begun standing in the place of faith. My faith grows daily. I have learned not to put all my hope into the specifics, the details, or the process. My hope is in the God who knows how to bring about the best possible outcome for my life and is faithful to complete the work He has started in me. When I shifted my focus from what my situation looks like to who my God is, things started to turn around for the better. As I have begun to stand in the place of faith, I have seen specific prayers answered and I have a knowing in my spirit that I have only scratched the surface of what He will do in my life and in the lives of those around me.
Throughout this process, I am learning what it means to persevere. I am learning what it means to continue in determination. I am learning what it means to hang unto hope and to never give up. I am learning to be like Elijah. In the face of the droughts and famines of life, I want to be one who is not driven to despair, but rather driven to my knees. I want to be one who in eager expectancy stays on the look out for the ways God is moving around me. When nothing I can see with my natural senses changes, I want to be one who doesn't give up, but who simply prays again and again and again, no matter how long it takes.
From where I am standing, I see the small rain cloud. It's getting closer and closer. I can feel it in my bones. It's about to rain.