When the Journey is Too Much for You (1 Kings 19)

Photo Credit: Elizabeth M

Photo Credit: Elizabeth M

There are times when faith seems like a sturdy house, and other times when faith seems like the tiniest rowing boat, lost in an ocean of uncertainty. This week, my social media timelines are full of people feeling overwhelmed, either by life or by faith.
If you are ever looking for good Bible verses for when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you need to jump straight to 1 Kings 19 – Elijah running away from his people, his mission, and even God.
One minute Elijah looks like the most secure believer on the planet: one chapter earlier he was calling fire down from heaven in front of the whole country. The next minute, he is running away, alone into the wilderness, begging God to take his life. He has given up: he just wants to die.

“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. 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.”” (1 Kings 19:3-4)

Sometimes this happens. We are always surprised when doubt and lostness afflict the strongest Christians, but we shouldn’t be. It’s right there in the Bible: God’s chosen mouthpiece to a corrupt generation, the prophet Elijah himself, had freaked out.
We all know the bit where there is a fire, earthquake, and finally a whisper where God speaks. What we don’t know so well is the part in between the fire from heaven and the whisper from God. Before Elijah can encounter God, he must make a journey to Horeb. The trouble is, he’s in no position to be making a journey. Instead, he falls asleep.

“Then [Elijah] 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.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”” (1 Kings 19:5-7)

Too weak, physically and emotionally, to do anything else, Elijah gives up ministering and is ministered to. He sleeps. An angel comes to him and feeds him, “for the journey is too much for you.”
Sometimes even the journey towards meeting God is too much for us. There is a long pause in between the despair and the restoration.  It is the space in the wilderness. It is at those times when we need angels to minister to us; we need sleep, food, sustenance, nourishment. We need space, quiet, room to breathe, safety. We need to receive, because we have nothing left to give.
After his food, Elijah then has to travel another forty days and nights before he meets God. Elijah’s break was short, but for some of us it is longer. However long the pause in the desert, is it worth remembering that like Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus, the wandering in the wilderness precedes the revelation of God.

“So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” (1 Kings 19:8)

Today I am thinking of those who are spiritually exhausted; who feel abandoned by God, but can’t even travel towards Him because the journey is too much for them.
For you, I pray for angels to minister to you, for sustenance, safety strength. The journey is too much for you. Sit awhile, and be fed.


Spiritual sustenance will look different for everyone, but here are some angels that have helped me in the wilderness:
Memoir: Addie Zierman – When We Were on Fire; Micha Boyett – Found; Rachel Held Evans – Searching for Sunday; Amber C Haines – Wild in the Hollow; Sarah Bessey – Out of Sorts
Miscellaneous Theology: God On Mute – Pete Greig; God Behaving Badly – David T Lamb; A Praying Life – Paul E Miller
Art: Faces of Christ: Jesus in Art – Jane Williams
Poetry: Night Cycles – Beth Morey; Malcolm Guite
Music: Gungor; Taize Chants
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[tweetit]”We are surprised when doubt and lostness afflict the strongest Christians, but we shouldn’t be.” – @Tanya_Marlow[/tweetit]
[tweetit]”Today I am thinking of those who are spiritually exhausted” – When the Journey is Too Much for You – @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]
[tweetit]”Wandering in the wilderness precedes the revelation of God.” When the Journey is Too Much for You – @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]
[tweetit]”We need space, quiet, room to breathe, safety.” A meditation for those who feel overwhelmed – @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]
Over to you: 

  • What helps you when you have felt overwhelmed? Who are the angels that minister to you in the desert?
  • Why do you think we are so surprised when those Christians who look the strongest are also those prone to burn out?


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17 Responses to When the Journey is Too Much for You (1 Kings 19)

  1. Mavis Poole 18th September, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

    Excellent article,thank you, I meet with my “angel” /Christian radio= prayer requests,it’s reassuring to know there are people who pray for and with those who are in the wildness or spiritually numb,they have been a spiritual
    friend many times. God Bless their mission.

    • Mavis Poole 19th September, 2015 at 10:32 am #

      #correction; that should read = wilderness or desert,Th.Y.

    • Tanya 21st September, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

      I’m so glad you have people who pray for you, too, Mavis.

  2. Amy Young 18th September, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    Tanya, I can’t adequately put this into words … but this stirs the deepest, truest part of my soul. And I feel a calmness and love reading this. xoxo

    • Tanya 21st September, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

      Amy, thank you so much for these wonderful words. You are awesome.

  3. Jessica 18th September, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    One of my favorite passages. Thanks for this, Tanya.

    • Tanya 21st September, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

      Ah, one of my faves too! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  4. Anne Booth 18th September, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post. I really needed to read it.

    • Tanya 21st September, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

      This makes me glad, lovely Anne.

  5. Rebecka 17th September, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    Hm, first there was a post on The Mudroom the other day that got me thinking, then I had a conversation with my counselor yesterday where I complained that I can’t pray without falling asleep and she said perhaps sleep is what I need, and now this post. I’m starting to feel like God is telling me I need more rest. (If only I would listen 😉 )

    This was beautiful! Thank you!

    • Tanya 21st September, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

      (first, which is an aside, I wanted to say how impressed I was with the correct idiomatic usage of ‘hm’ – I always have to remind myself that English is not your first language!)
      And yes, hmmm indeed! Hoping you can be so, so kind to yourself. Rest without guilt, dear friend.

  6. TC Larson 17th September, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    Thank you thank you for this today.

    • Tanya 21st September, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

      Thank you so much for saying so! This makes me glad 🙂

  7. Elspeth 17th September, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

    I needed this today. Thank you for this ‘boost’ on the journey 🙂 xx

    • Tanya 21st September, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

      Thank you Elspeth. I’m so glad it met you where you’re at. 🙂


  1. Hope, Faith and Love. | bridgeanne art and writing - 21st September, 2015

    […] First of all – the blog post. I am so grateful for it. http://tanyamarlow.com/when-the-journey-is-too-much-for-you-1-kings-19/ […]

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