Elijah Syndrome

Bible Book: 1 Kings  19 : 1-18
Subject: Loneliness; Elijah; Peace of God; Renewal


Louise Bernikow wrote a book entitled "Alone in America: The Search for Companionship." She says, "Everyone goes through a period of loneliness, but now too many people are lonely too much of the time. Many of them are among the growing ranks of those who live alone, though living by yourself doesn't necessarily mean you are lonely any more than living with others means that you have a sense of connectedness. Many people who are married have a horrendous time feeling connected to anything."

To back up that assertion, one study in "Psychology Today" states that between 50 million and 60 million Americans, as much as a quarter of the population, feel extremely lonely at some time during any given month. The problem is so pervasive that a billion dollar "loneliness industry," including video dating clubs, health spas and self-help books, has sprung up to meet the desire of so many people to do something about their loneliness.

Psychologists and other social scientists looking for the causes of loneliness have been hampered by its subjective nature and varied manifestations. Although the feeling is common, people experience it in many different ways, under many different conditions.

Psychologist Jeffrey Young of Columbia University describes three kinds of loneliness: transient, situational and chronic. "Transient loneliness lasts between a few minutes and a few hours," he says, "and because the symptoms are not severe, not much attention has been devoted to it." Situational loneliness results from an important event--a divorce, a death in the family or a geographic move. The effects can be both physical and mental--headaches, sleep problems, anxiety, depression--and can last up to a year.

For some lonely people, however, temporary circumstances aren't the basic problem. They have difficulty making social contact and achieving intimacy even when conditions are favorable. Young classifies individuals who feel lonely for more than two years at a time when no traumatic event has taken place as chronically lonely. "When people are lonely for that length of time, typically they blame themselves and their personality traits rather than circumstances," he says. "Chronically lonely people can become convinced that there is little or nothing they can do to improve their condition".

It is one of the plagues of humanity. It has been used by the evil one many times to win victories in the war. The fear of loneliness has crippled many believers from experiencing lives of victory and power. It prompts the often asked question, "How can I deal with loneliness?"

God's Word is so good. It gives direction where it is needed. This area is no exception. Turn with me to 1 Kings 19:1-18. I want us to look at the story of one who felt all alone. As we do, God wants us to find out how we can deal with loneliness. We're going to look at Elijah. He is truly one of the most colorful characters in the Bible. He had stood boldly against the rottenness of Ahab's practices and dared take on the prophets of the great Baal in the dramatic contest on Mount Carmel.

Elijah has served God well. He was God's surgical knife, lancing the festering sore of Israel's idolatry. Elijah was the rod in God's hand chastening Israel for her disobedience. Elijah was God's mouthpiece, pronouncing the judgment of drought upon the land. Elijah was God's priest, offering a sacrifice for the sins of the people that brought down fire from heaven. At the mere mention of his name we think of earthquake, storm, and fire, the scourge of evil kings, and the prophet of doom.

But 1 Kings 19 portrays him as a man ridden by despair. Huddled beneath a juniper tree, this prophet of the Lord in deepest despondency prays for death.

I. Look At The Situation

As I said, he had just (18:18, 30-39) come from a great victory. God's power had been manifest in a powerful way. In v. 39 of chapter 18, we see that the people believed and worshiped the Lord God. The story goes on, however. In 19:3, we see that Elijah became frightened of Jezebel and he ran for his life. He ran and hid, finally coming to a cave (v. 9) where he stayed. Such was the situation.

How can a man of iron descend to such utter despair? How can one who is the victor become a weakling in such a short time? It is my belief that Elijah's eyes shifted from God to himself. When that happened, he felt terribly alone and weak and the future looked dismal. He had seen God's victory but began to believe it was his victory.

He even despaired and told God, "I have had enough!" Why did he feel that he should have outstripped his fathers in achievement and acceptance (v. 4)? Because he forgot that it is only when God worked through him that greatness was found.

How foolish he was! Yet we are also guilty. How often have we experienced a great power, or a great victory, or a tremendous revival in church or in our own lives, only to end up in despair? It happens when we shift our eyes from our Father to ourselves. Isn't it terrible that we keep God from giving us a continually victorious life by turning away from him.

The primary cause of loneliness is not horizontal in its focus, but vertical.

II. Notice The Question Which God Asked (v. 9).

God said, "Elijah, what are you doing here?" Of course, God knew the answer, yet he chose to ask Elijah the question. He wanted him to reflect on his answer. Elijah learned that God sometimes speaks and performs in dramatic ways, but in this case He chose to relate His message in the still, small voice. In essence, God asked him, "Elijah, why are you doing this?" As a father asks his wayward son, God asked his prophet this question out of love and genuine concern.

It is a part of our blessed inheritance that the Father seeks to awaken our spiritual senses. He aids us in honesty viewing our spiritual conditions. How we need to hear His call to us today. Isaiah 41:10 says, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

III. Notice Elijah's Response (vv. 10, 14).

God spoke to him and he replied with the best excuse he could muster. Nothing was going right. He said everyone else had faltered. The country had gone to pot. Only he was left. He was all alone. Instead of recognizing what was really going on, he blamed his loneliness on the excuse that everyone else had failed.

Humans are notorious at using excuses. When it comes to church, that's where the real experts are. To combat this, one preacher held a no-excuse Sunday.

Friends, we often feel alone. We make up all kinds of excuses as to why we are alone. We feel as though we are the only ones left. Many Christians become so negative that they literally become lonely, they run everyone off.

IV. NOTICE GOD'S REPLY (vv. 15-18).

God told him, "You are not alone, I have thousands." God prodded his servant, Elijah, to action (15- 18). He first ordered him to get up, then to look up. Then in v. 18 he tells him to link up with those who are loyal.

God's therapy for the prophet's despair proved effective. Elijah went from a downand-out to an up- and-about person. Mt. Horeb proved to be a refueling point rather than the end or junkyard.

His therapy for Elijah is good medicine for all of us.

We need to...

Get up (determine to act). . .

Look up (reestablish the vertical). . .and

Link up.

There are in the family of faith many like you who want love.