I want to invite you on a journey with me this month…our destination is SOUL CARE. We have spent a lot of time here AT THE CROSSROADS talking about the pain, frustration, doubt, and loneliness that comes while we wait in our meltdown, monotonous, and often miserable middles. But if we want the middle to make us better (and not bitter), we need to spend this season of waiting by taking care of ourselves. On this Mindful Monday I want you to understand why the very first step to taking care of your soul begins with caring for your body.
Not exactly what you thought I was going to start with, right?
I think when most people think of SOUL CARE they think in spiritual terms. Caring for your soul must begin with things like prayer, meditation, Bible reading, solitude, and worship. And while I do believe that caring for your soul definitely includes these things, I have learned (the hard way…always the hard way!) that when you are stuck at a crossroads, feeling defeated, depleted, and discouraged, there is a crucial first step you must take to get back on the road to recovery.
And it is profound in its simplicity: take care of your physical needs first.
But wait, you may be saying, how does taking care of my body do anything for my broken and bruised soul?
Let’s go back to one of my favorite prophets in Bible, Elijah, for the answer.
Why do I always go back to the Bible to answer such questions? Because “it’s in there”! (I hope at least a few of you will get my reference to old the Ragu commercial…ha ha!) But seriously, every question we have for everything in life can be found in the Bible.
I am going to provide a short summary of 1 Kings 18 & 19 to provide context for today’s truths. (On Faithful Friday I will give a more in-depth study for those of you who like to dig into God’s Word for yourselves.)
In 1 Kings 18 Elijah had confronted the worshippers of Baal on Mount Carmel. God showed up in a huge way (through fire), and Elijah had a mountain-top experience both literally and figuratively. In many ways, Elijah walked away from Mount Carmel a hero.
But things take a dramatic turn in 1 Kings 19. Here is a point by point summary of verses 1-9 with the help of The Message Bible translation:
- When Ahab tells Jezebel about Elijah killing all of her prophets, she vows revenge.
- She sends a message to Elijah: “The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets.”
- So Elijah “the hero” becomes Elijah “the zero” and takes off into the wilderness, leaving even his servant behind.
- He sits down under a tree and tells the Lord that he’s had enough: “Take my life!” he screams to God.
- Exhausted, he falls asleep, but an angel wakes him up and tells him to eat. Elijah finds bread and some water next to him, and he eats and drinks before he falls asleep again.
- The angel comes to wake him a second time, and tells him, “You’d better eat some more–you have got a long journey ahead of you.”
- Elijah wakes up and eats some more. He then heads off to Horeb, the mountain of God.
- Nourished by the food the angel had given him, he doesn’t eat anything for forty days and forty nights during his journey.
- Finally, he arrives at Horeb. He finds a cave and sleeps.
Many of us can relate to Elijah on several levels. We understand great “highs” are often followed by “lows” of doubt, discouragement, and depression. Emotional stress, physical fatigue, body chemistry, and even poor eating habits can contribute to this kind of crash that takes place. It is all part of being human.
But notice what God does NOT do when Elijah reaches the lowest, deepest, darkest middle in his journey. This is so important.
God does not call him out for being faithless and fearful.
God does not remind him of the victory he just experienced on Mount Carmel.
God does not shame him for being scared and running away.
God does not even reprimand him when he wants to give up and die.
In fact, God is pretty silent when it comes to words at this point in the story.
Instead, God DOES SOMETHING for Elijah.
In His mercy, compassion, and kindness God steps in, by means of an angel, and provides exactly what Elijah needs: food, water, and rest.
God does not ask him to pray, sacrifice, or worship.
He tells Elijah to eat, drink, and sleep.
God created Elijah and knew both the limitations and abilities of his physical body. Although God had further plans for Elijah (we will see that on Faithful Friday), He knew Elijah was in no condition to listen or take His instruction. Elijah first needed physical strength through nourishment to function and move forward on his journey. God met Elijah where he was (in the middle of a desert) and began by first meeting his physical needs.
You were designed and created in the same way. You cannot expect to hear from God, make sense of your middle, or even attempt to move forward to your destination if you do not stop first and care for your physical needs.
Don’t you find this to be true in your own experience? How many of you are thoughtful and mindful when you haven’t gotten any sleep? How many of you can face the middle with hope and faith when your body is weary and aching from stress? How many of you want to pray and read your Bible when your stomach is growling?
Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is get enough rest and replenishment.
“The spirit needs to be fed, and the body needs feeding also. Do not forget these matters; it may seem to some people that I ought not to mention such small things as food and rest, but these may be the very first elements in really helping a poor depressed servant of God.”
~ Charles Spurgeon
Do not neglect this first and most crucial step to SOUL CARE. It may not sound spiritual but it is vital… and it is also biblical!
If you can relate to Elijah as you begin this Mindful Monday…
…if you are depleted from working so hard
…if you are drained from doing the right thing
…if you have doubts about whether you are making any progress at all
Stop. Breathe. Eat. Drink. Rest.
Use your middle this week to replenish and recharge your physical body.
Take a nap or a walk, or both.
Think about and plan for the food you will eat (and enjoy it).
Drink plenty of water.
Get to bed early.
And then do it again…until you are completely rested, refreshed, and renewed.
If you truly want to begin this journey toward SOUL CARE, this is the place you must start.
On Faithful Friday, you will learn that God is not finished with Elijah. God does not give Elijah food, water, and sleep only to let him to recuperate in the middle of the desert. God sends him on an important journey…one that has a everything to do with restoring his soul.
So rest up this week and join me on Friday to learn that God has the same plan for you!