If you are part of the podcast audience you know that we have mentioned issues of depression, grief and anxiety that are connected to the pandemic. In recent days many people have had their struggles with mental health triggered as comfortable routines are disrupted and the unknown is upon us. Others have seen battles with addiction (alcohol, porn, Netflix, eating, etc...) intensify as worry and idle time have come together in an unhealthy combination. Even an increased propensity to emotional responses of anger are being reported in connection with pandemic life
Over the years one of the truths that I have picked up in terms of effectively combatting addiction is that we are helped when we learn to recognize our triggers which alert us to pivot more quickly when we find ourselves in a danger zone. Similarly if you are in a position to care for someone in such a battle, recognizing the triggers they might be battling, can assist you in coming alongside of them. One helpful rubric for recognizing common triggers we deal with is the acronym H.A.L.T. We find ourselves susceptible when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and/or Tired. In these moments we seek immediate comfort, sometimes at the expense of healthy resolution.
I share this with you in light of 1 Kings 19, the passage we will be looking at this Sunday. In this passage we meet Elijah on the run from Jezebel. Instead of returning to Israel after his victory on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18) and finding a converted nation, he finds that not much has changed, and now Jezebel is seeking his life (19:2). His escape leads him to the desert where he finds himself under a broom tree, convinced that he is the only YHWH fearer left alive, asking the Lord to take his life (19:4). In response YHWH meets him, touches him, feeds him, lets hims sleep, asks him questions to show that he is listening and reconnects him to his purpose in life (19:6-9). In terms of H.A.L.T. we see Elijah angry at the lack of change in the people and feeling alone, while YHWH starts his “treatment” by addressing his hunger and fatigue.
It is really a wonderful chapter on the tenderness of YHWH, a fact that I hope to bring out to you on Sunday. For now, however, with a more limited focus there is something to be gained in recognizing the Lord’s multifaceted response. Rather than lecturing Elijah, he tenderly empathizes with his prophet, reminds him in a powerful way that he is not alone, and sets Elijah back on the path. There is a lesson to be learned here as we struggle not to diminish the importance of seemingly small things like hunger, fatigue or emotions like anger or loneliness. These are like indicators on a car pointing to potentially deeper issues. There is also a lesson here for those of who care, not to rush right to lectures or even to sympathy, but to really work to meet our friends where they are struggling and walk with them to a renewed sense of purpose. (Brene Brown has great piece on Empathy. )
One final word, if you find yourself struggling, please reach out. We are all struggling to some degree and there is no shame in seeking help. We have resources available to help at many levels. But even more than that we would want you to know that you are not alone!