But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 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. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you. And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:4-8 (ESV)
“We don’t always think of caring for the body as a part of our spiritual practice, but the story of Elijah confirms that many times this is where it all begins,” says Ruth Barton in her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence. God’s provision of food for Elijah’s body shows the importance of daily rhythm and sleep activity, especially for one in an exhausted, depressed condition. God knew the prophet’s need and took care of his body and mind. Our brain is part of our body.
Giving attention to our body brings us face to face with the reality of our finiteness. Somewhere in your life you might have learned to put the spiritual over the physical. Perhaps you think the body is not important or relevant to spirituality or maybe you believe the spiritual journey takes place separate from the body. In Jesus’ time this was called Gnosticism. The truth is the spiritual journey is taken IN a physical body. There is a real connection between caring for our body and deepening our relationship with God. What do you notice about your body when you sit still before God and be with him for a few moments?
We’d most likely have to admit to aching muscles, tension, racing thoughts and symptoms of exhaustion. Ruth Barton explains the difference between “good tired,” a temporary fatigue easily recovered from, normal and predictable, and “dangerous tired,” which comes from an unending intensity of schedule and workload producing risk and volatility. Good tired promotes energy and refreshment. Dangerous tired makes us feel out of control and the frenetic quality of our life disturbs those around us.
God knew the journey was too much for Elijah and he took care of him. God made your body and mind and he knows your journey. God wants to touch us and care for us in our humanness. Ask him what your “tiredness” is saying about you. Tell him what you need. Listen to what he has to share with you. Together, you and God decide on a plan.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoy giving rest to those he loves? Psalm 127:2 (MSG)
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
By Donna Burns