[This article is one of the 31 devotionals in our new resource, Refreshed: A Devotional for Women in Dry Seasons. Through Scripture, 31 devotionals, application questions, and spiritual disciplines, Refreshed will help you establish the habit of watering your soul with the truth of God's Word. Find it in the Well-Watered Co. today.]
And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.
1 Kings 19:5–6
Have you ever experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows all in a short time frame? If so, how did you cope with the pendulum swing of emotions?
The days preceding 1 Kings 19:5–6 involved the prophet Elijah confronting an ungodly king, challenging 850 false prophets to an epic battle of the gods, watching God perform a miracle, killing the false prophets in judgment, seeing God provide rain after a three-year drought, running faster than the king’s chariot for seventeen miles in the pouring rain, receiving a royal death threat, and escaping into the wilderness.
Consider how drained Elijah must have been—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. What he’d experienced was overwhelming and traumatic as well as exhilarating and disappointing. While we don’t know the specifics of his expectations, it’s reasonable to assume he would have expected the people, even evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, to turn to the Lord after seeing God miraculously consume a wet sacrifice and end a drought. But three years of being a fugitive concluded with a literal mountaintop experience with God before being on the run for his life again. Maybe Elijah wondered what it had all been for when revival didn’t come with the rain.
When Elijah crossed over into the safety of a wilderness in a different kingdom, he sat under a tree and told God he’d had enough and wanted to die (1 Kings 19:4). In just a couple of days, Elijah went from the mountaintop to the wilderness, from confronting a king to running from a queen, from acting in faith to acting in fear, and from praying for God to work to praying for God to end his life.
Elijah went to the wilderness in despair, and how did God respond? God didn’t respond with a Bible verse or some lofty spiritual truth. God enabled Elijah to sleep and provided him with food to eat and water to drink. He took care of Elijah’s physical needs before responding to Elijah’s questions and concerns and before giving Elijah more to do.
Impatient. Irrational. Irritable. Sensitive. Emotional. Whether it’s a tired toddler, a hungry teenager, or an overwhelmed adult, these words describe how our physical bodies affect us when we’re deprived of adequate food and rest. While most of us aren’t experiencing circumstances like Elijah, our emotions and thoughts are similarly affected by stress and exertion.
Like Elijah, we also experience fluctuations in our emotions and in our faith. Sometimes this occurs because of spiritual reasons, and sometimes, this occurs simply because our bodies affect us. Maybe we got too little sleep or haven’t eaten and, thus, became hangry. While our diets, exercise (or lack of it), amount of sleep, hormones, and more influence us, these things do not determine our behavior. We choose how we act, but as embodied humans, we are greatly affected by what happens in our bodies and to our bodies. God made our bodies with limits, and listening to our bodies and respecting those limits is part of what it looks like to steward what God has given to us.
Our bodies affect our emotions, and taking care of our bodies can help us feel better, at least to some degree. How would you describe your physical health? As you expend energy, are you making time to rest and recover? How is your body speaking to you? How are you treating your body? How are your life choices affecting your body? Are your choices putting your body and your mind in the best position to be healthy and to pursue holiness? What does your treatment of your body express about your beliefs about God and about yourself?
Elijah wanted death. Instead, God gave him sleep and a cake. He cared for Elijah’s body first, and in doing this, God showed that he understood Elijah’s limits, the limits God created him to have.
Gleaning from 1 Kings 19, we see that God caring for Elijah’s body enabled him to continue serving the Lord, equipped him to better deal with his circumstances, and put him in a position to better hear from the Lord.
Our bodies matter to God, and our bodies are gifts from God. Healthy amounts of food and rest enable us to be refreshed, and like Elijah, this better equips us to serve the Lord, deal with our circumstances, and commune with the Lord.
Water Your Soul
How are your life choices affecting your body, and what does this express about your beliefs about yourself and God? How can you take one step this week to bring alignment between what God’s Word teaches and how you view or treat your body?
As you remember that God made you in his image, what is one thing about you that he enjoys? What is one thing about your body that is good? Note these things and take a moment to pray and give thanks to God for the body he has given to you.
Meet the Author
Ashley Chesnut serves as the Associate Young Adult Minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and she’s the author of It's Not Just You: Freeing Women to Talk about Sexual Sin and Fight It Well. She has a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Certificate of Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can usually find her at the farmer's market or trying some new local restaurant.