I just can’t take it anymore.
I give up.
God, just kill me now!
We can be driven to say such things when we feel beaten down by life.
That can happen when a marriage is falling apart, when children are headed in the wrong direction, when caring for elderly parents becomes more challenging, when unpaid bills pile up ever higher, when the doctor delivers horrible news, when an addiction takes over daily life, and when death steals away loved ones.
In this Sunday’s First Reading (1 Kings 19:4-8), we hear of the prophet Elijah who felt defeated and beaten down by life.
Elijah had been doing the work of God. He had called people to turn away from idolatry. He had successfully confronted the priests of the false god Baal. He had ended the three-year drought that had afflicted the country. In doing so, Elijah had demonstrated the awesome power of God.
Rather than being praised, Elijah was being hunted down by evil queen Jezebel who demanded his death for destroying the priests of Baal.
Hungry, thirsty, and exhausted from running for his life. Elijah collapsed. He felt deserted by God.
We are told that Elijah, “prayed for death saying: ‘This is enough, O LORD! Take my life.’” Elijah basically told God, “Kill me now, I can’t take it anymore.”
In response, God sent an angel to bring Elijah food and water. Elijah ate and then laid down again in despair. A second time the angel returned and told Elijah, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
This time, strengthened by the food and encouraged by the message from God, Elijah made the 40-day journey to mount Horeb where he would encounter God. Without that divine intervention Elijah would have died in the desert.
What God did for Elijah, God can do for us.
God strengthens us with his word. A word that comes not from the mouth of an angel but from the mouth of his Son. In the Gospels, Jesus gives us a message of hope and encouragement. He tells us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you …. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)
The Lord also strengthens us with his presence. He does that through the members of his Church who are called to care for one another. As Jesus commands us, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)
Above all, we experience the strengthening presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we are given a food even more marvelous than the manna that nourished the Jews on their journey to the Promised Land. As Jesus tells us in Sunday’s Gospel (John 6:41-51), “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.”
The bread the Jesus gives us is not just a reminder of his presence; it is, as Catholics profess, his “real presence.”
Strengthened by this “living bread that came down from heaven,” the Church has journeyed through the past 2,000 years making its way through history, continually moving ever closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Without that heavenly food that the Lord offers us through his word, through his Church, and through the Eucharist, we might find ourselves saying, “It’s hopeless. I just can’t take it anymore.”
As Elijah showed us, we need the Lord’s help in our journey through life.
© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski