There are some people who seem to be able to handle problems and difficulties reasonably well. Others fall to pieces and do not know where to turn when suffering or adversity come upon them.
One thing is sure, every true believer will have to face trials at some time or other during his Christian experience. They may be personal or family problems, or it may be persecution because of their faith, but trials there will be.
Listen to what Peter says: ‘Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy’ (1 Peter 4: 12-13).
Elijah was a man of God who experienced many trials and suffering. James 5:17 tells us that he was ‘a man with a nature like ours’. In 1 Kings 17:8 we read that God directed him to go to Zarephath when the brook Cherith dried up in the drought. At the same time we read that God had ‘commanded a widow’ to provide for his needs. Elijah knew where he was going and why: God had clearly directed him. The woman, on the other hand, was ‘commanded’ by God to feed the prophet, yet she did not know it.
The sovereign Lord was to provide for his prophet through a pagan widow who knew nothing about God’s plan. The Jews of Christ’s day wanted to throw him over a precipice when he reminded them of this (Luke 4:2526). Yet here we have one of the many instances in Scripture where God manifests his sovereignty for the good of his people, even over those who refuse to bow before his sovereign majesty. This world is not out of control. Our God reigns.
Yet all did not go well when Elijah arrived in Zarephath. The widow’s young child dies unexpectedly and clinging to her dead child she turns on the prophet: ‘What have I to do with you,’ she cries, ‘have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to kill my son?’ Elijah hardly expected this.
Things had been calm in the desert when the ravens brought him food twice each day and he drank from the brook. ‘Give me your son,’ he says to the woman. Undoubtedly in her great distress she would have preferred to hold on to her dead child. Why hand him over to the one whom she thought was responsible for her distress? Yet she did, and the rest of the narrative in 1 Kings 17 tells how God restored the child to life and gave him back to his mother.
Is it not true that, like the widow of Zarephath, we would prefer to hold onto our distresses and tragedies, sometimes blaming God for them, rather than hand them over to his Son who has ‘borne our griefs and carried our sorrows’? Yet this is what we are commanded to do: ‘Cast your burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain you’ (Psalm 55:22).
We prefer to look elsewhere for comfort and encouragement rather than hand over our griefs and sorrows to the only one who is able to bear them, Christ Jesus the Lord. Stop holding onto your dead baby and let our sovereign Lord handle the situation in whatever way he pleases.