Find Someone Feeling Discouraged

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Running on Empty
Have you ever had one of those days where you just didn't want to be around anybody? A time when you just wanted to be alone and not interact with anyone for any reason. Ironically, oftentimes the less you feel like being around others, the more you actually need it. You may be dealing with loneliness right now, and the way you're dealing with this loneliness is by isolating yourself, which is the opposite of what Scripture would tell us to do. The more you withdraw, the lonelier you will feel. Elijah felt this kind of loneliness in 1 Kings 19. But God has not designed us to go off into the desert by ourselves, sit under a tree, and think about how hard life is. We need other people around us! You may think or feel that you're alone, but you're not really alone in your circumstances. One of the most powerful things that happens for us is when we gather together for worship in community with others. In those moments, you see you’re not alone and others are in this with you. God does several things for Elijah in response to his despair, and we read about what God does in 1 Kings 19:5. It’s important for us to notice that God is gentle and kind in his approach to Elijah’s feelings of discouragement. First, God gives Elijah rest. Second thing God does is he gives Elijah his presence. But one of the most important things that God does is giving Elijah a new friend in Elisha, and God lets them work together. There is so much power in working towards Kingdom goals with others that are like-minded and also striving to propel the will of the Lord. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: Who has God brought into your life that really made a difference during a time of despair? Who in your life can you be that friend for right now?
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Sense of Futility
Despair and disappointment can set in when you put forth the effort and try your best, but you look back and it seems like things are the same way they have always been. You feel as if you have got nothing to show for your hard work since things didn't change at all. This can leave you feeling exhausted and discouraged. This was true for Elijah; he had this major victory against the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, but then a threat on his life comes from Jezebel and nothing feels different than it did before. Elijah feels discouragement and despair as he is being unfairly mistreated by people in power. But instead of having faith and trusting for God to redeem the situation, he just feels lost in these feelings. Oftentimes, when we get upset and frustrated because we feel like somebody has offended us or they've mistreated us, we want to hold on to our right to be offended. In doing so, you live in this discouragement and despair of how that person wronged you, thus giving them power over you. The truth of the situation is that you just don't know how God will redeem things and how God will work things out for the good. Elijah had seen God do that throughout his life and years of ministry, and yet in this moment, he doubted God’s ability to do so. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: When in your life have you felt that, despite your best efforts, things never change? Have you handed this situation over to God? Do you ever feel doubtful of his ability to redeem a difficult circumstance?
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Coming Off a Victory
Throughout three years of ministry, God has done some incredible things through Elijah, and it comes to a dramatic conclusion in 1 Kings 18:22. Elijah is on Mount Carmel, and he challenges 450 prophets of Baal to see who is the real and true God. Elijah basically says, “You build an altar to your God, and I'll build an altar to the Lord God. Then we'll both pray for fire from heaven and see what happens.” The 450 prophets of Baal build their altar, and start calling out for fire with no success. Then it's finally Elijah’s turn, and he tells them to drench his altar with water. He prays a very simple prayer to the Lord God, and God sends down fire from heaven. The fire is so intense that it even laps up the water around the altar. And in that moment, all the people see who the one true God is, and God sends a refreshing rain after years of drought as the people repent. This spiritual and emotional high for Elijah ends with being overwhelmed with the power of God, and with feelings of adrenaline and strength. After these significant successes, after he's persevered, after he's been used in powerful ways, after he has stood strong and faced overwhelming odds, and after he's experienced this huge victory, he sits down underneath a tree and he has had enough as he is depressed and filled with despair. For some of us that may be surprising; despair or depression would seem to come in the middle of the drought when your circumstances are the most overwhelming and difficult, not after the drought is over. But it is not uncommon that when you get through something really difficult, then these emotions hit you. You push through and find the strength to persevere and you assume that once you get to the end of it, everything will be good, but waiting on the other side is this depression and discouragement.  DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: Recall a time in your life where you felt despair or discouragement after experiencing a big victory in life. Did this despair catch you by surprise? How did you respond to these feelings?