Thistles, Prickles and Thorns
Read: 1 Kings 19:1-18
They're back. The roses, well technically speaking it is only the leaves and buds that have appeared; however, thanks to the Lord's beautiful rain, the plants have grown by leaps and bounds. It shouldn't be long before the flowers burst out, displaying both their colors and different fragrances. What a wonderful Creator/Sustainer we have, Revelation 4:11! As I was thinking about the roses, a question came to mind. Is there a reason for the thorns? When I Googled that question, I learned two things.
1. Technically speaking, what we call thorns are really prickles. Thorns, according to more than one source are what is on a cactus, and prickles which are found on roses close to the plant's surface, are much easier to remove than a true thorn.
2. Yes, prickles do have a purpose. They help discourage predators that would like to nourish themselves on the tasty roses. Of course, not every enemy is thwarted by the prickles, but no doubt they help keep some would-be snackers away.
So, they are a good thing. At least for the rose; however, there is another thorny growing thing that is, at least in my opinion, truly good for nothing. Thistles. They're also back, and they pop up right next to the roses. We can pull them out, and in no time, they appear again.
Thistles remind me of all kinds of trials. On-going troublesome circumstances both large and small. They might be people related or they might be wearying circumstances that appear like unwanted thistles. Yes, James tells us that God uses them to develop patience and help us become strong and complete, James 1:2-4. Even so, they can be painful and sometimes cause us to feel sad, weary or confused. That is the picture painted for us in today's scripture reading.
In 1 Kings 19:1-18, we watch Elijah as he encountered yet one more thistle. Her name was Jezebel, and her wicked threats were the last straw for him. He told God that he had dealt with enough. He was worn out by his circumstances and simply done in physically. He simply laid down. He wasn't going to try to dig out one more painful thistle. I love God's reaction. God sent nourishment and allowed Elijah more rest. It is so practical and so kind. No wonder God Who knows us through and through started there, Psalm 103:14. I love what happened next. Elijah took off running and ended up in a cave. I wonder. Was that the first man cave?
When God spoke to Elijah, He asked His man a question. What was he doing there?
Elijah's answer was the same as earlier. He said he had been very diligent for the Lord. He also let the Lord know that he was the only loyal one left and besides all that, evil ones were trying to take his life. He never really answered the Lord, but the Lord graciously answered Him by helping Elijah redirect his thinking. For one thing, the Lord reminded Elijah that he wasn't alone. There were at least 7,000 others who hadn't descended into idolatry. For another thing, although Elijah apparently was not certain why he was where he was, God gave him a destination, goals to accomplish and a person with whom he could work. Not only was the prophet not alone, he would minister with Elisha who would not only help him, he would also learn from him. Elijah was given tasks to do. He was not going to be thwarted by the wicked plans of Israel's king and queen. How different the world must have looked for Elijah after God helped him see it from His perspective. The thistles remained, but God's provision and truth gave Elijah the strength he needed.
What can we learn from the Lord's care for His weary prophet since so many people are dealing with painful on-going thistles? What can we do to help them as God helped Elijah?
1. Could we meet a practical need? The variety of needs a hurting person might have is endless. Anything from food to helping with chores and myriads of every-day burdens that can cause an already difficult situation to become more overwhelming. This kind of ordinary help can lighten a weary one's load. I remember a day when a friend who knew that it was a thistly day brought me a milk shake. My load was lightened by that sweet gesture.
2. Could we let someone know that she isn't alone? We have all been reminded that when people are isolated, loads become heavier. At times, there is no task we can do to bring comfort, but perhaps a note letting someone know that we care and that we stand with her in prayer could truly help. The Holy Spirit's nudge can bring this reminder at just the right time.
3. Could we ask someone out for coffee and perhaps begin a friendship? Could this simple beginning be the start of a ministry together? Life, even with thistles, is sweeter when we serve others, using the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us to bring glory to the Lord, 1 Peter 4:9-11.
I wonder how many amazing experiences Elijah and Elisha had as they worked together??
Lord, Thank You for giving us a picture of Your care for Elijah. Please show us how to give that same care to each of the Elijahs whom You place in our lives. Help us hear Your still small voice and act on Your promptings.