Faith and Doubt: Lessons from Elijah and the Disciples’ Experience

I Kings 19 tells the story of the prophet Elijah facing a serious threat from Queen Jezebel, who sought vengeance for the death of the prophets of Baal. Frightened, Elijah fled the city and even wished he were dead. Feeling overwhelmed and depressed he says: “Yahweh, I have had enough. Take my life; I am not better than my ancestors.” This is surprising given his previous display of courage when confronting the prophets of Baal and proclaiming Yahweh as the true one God (Cfr I kgs 18). One would wonder what happened to his faith in God, as demonstrated in the previous chapter.

Elijah’s Experience Teaches Us Valuable Lessons

When fear dominates us and threatens our lives, we become spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically weak. We may be tempted to forget that God remains constant and He who delivered us from past threats, assures us of His presence in the present and future experience. God never abandons His people, even when they lose faith and hope in Him.

God’s angel ministered to Elijah, providing him with sustenance for his 40-day journey to Mount Horeb, where he would encounter God. Elijahs’ deliverance from his depression and suicidal thoughts began when he obeyed God’s angel and partook of the food provided to him. In the bible, 40 days and nights symbolizes a prolonged period of trials, temptations, and spiritual battles that anyone who wants to serve God should be prepared to face. Elijah’s experience reminds us that God knows how weak we are and attends to our basic needs in various manners. It is through such challenges that we gain access to true freedom and a unique encounter with God, which dispels fears, and fills us with peace.

Elijah Experienced a Profound Encounter with God

God, who manifested Himself through natural phenomena like wind, rocks, earthquake, fire, and a tiny whispering sound. Symbolically, Elijah was invited to come out of his prison of fear, to leave his little world, and stand before God. This reminds us that to have a life-giving encounter with God, we must let go of fear, negativity, and depressive thoughts and approach God in prayer and with open hearts to whatever God wishes to reveal to us.

Through the various natural phenomena, God taught Elijah not to limit Him to his previous experience on Mount Carmel. God is beyond the consuming fire; (Cfr 1 Kg 18, 31-39). He is also present in the gentle whisper. So, believers can encounter God in various ways, including silent meditation. The challenge for most Christians is to avoid reducing God to their limited experiences, ideas, or feelings.

Overcoming our Fears

The experience of Elijah finally emphasizes the importance of not succumbing to panic when faced with threats or challenges in life. Instead, we should learn to turn to God in silent prayer and be open to His guidance. Elijah’s experience of fear finds parallels with that of the disciples of Jesus in today’s Gospel. Like Elijah, the disciples struggled with fear, which clouded their ability to recognize Jesus. However, Peter demonstrated strong faith by trusting Jesus’ words and accomplishing the seemingly impossible by walking on water, thus dominating his fears. What is humanly impossible becomes possible with Jesus!

Although it is quite human to experience fear and even depression, Scripture reminds us that God is always present in our lives. Let us find courage to turn to God, especially in critical moments, trusting that He will guide and strengthen us. By learning from Elijah’s experience and that of the Disciples, we can grow in faith and overcome our fears of those or what threatens us because of the Christian values we stand for. May we keep in mind that God’s constant love and support are with us especially in the critical moments of our life.

[Readings: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33]

Fr. Alex Igbozuruike

Fr Alexius. C. IGBOZURIKE, is a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He is a chaplain at our Lady of Lourdes’ Sanctuary in France. To contact him, Sanctuaire Notre Dame de Lourdes, Maison des Chapelains, 1 Avenue Mgr. Théas, 65108, Lourdes Cedex, France. Email : [email protected]

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