Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He answered, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts... He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Then the LORD said to him, "Go, return
on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. -1 Kings 19
What are you doing here Elijah? This was the question Christine Caine posed to a packed house at Passion 2015. I was there as a Doorholder, making the way for 20,000 college students to hear the message of Jesus. I had no intention or expectation of hearing a word for me. I simply desired to serve. On that Saturday, I made my way to the Doorholder Suite and soon heard a message that rocked me to my core.
You see, for the seven years or so leading up to that night, I had been serving some amazing youth and young adults at a church. And truly, it had been an awesome ministry and an awesome call. But on that night, I was tired, exhausted and searching. The "why" and "how much longer, Lord" questions were weighing heavily on my heart and mind. Between full time Seminary. full time ministry and a full home life, I was struggling to get the compass to point to Jesus and even more, trust what he was doing. The question I was asking myself on the regular was "what are you still doing here, Andrea?!?!"
That night, Christine Caine preached to the leaders, but God had her speaking to me. She spoke of burn out and exhaustion, fear and doubt, the overwhelming of feeling a failure. In the midst of my desert place, she spoke these words "go back the way you came..." and I was convicted. Everything in my heart and mind was ready to throw in the towel, call it a day, quit the ministry I was in. But there she stood, preaching this story of Elijah and God convicted me: go back the way you came. Because while you are of little faith, I am faithful.
Fast forward 18 months.
Three weeks ago, I graduated seminary. I earned my Master of Divinity.
On Tuesday, I was called to serve a church.
This Sunday, I will be ordained a pastor.
The lectionary passage for this Sunday, my ordination? 1 Kings 19. This is no coincidence. God. Is. Faithful.
This past month, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my years of service at my current church. I've been blessed to work with amazing young people. I have been afforded the opportunity to develop and lead missions to places far and wide. I've learned more than I can articulate about leadership in the church. And through it all, even while I've served, I've struggled to see what God is doing.
What are you doing here, Elijah? The irony is not lost on me. What's interesting about this passage is that Elijah hears the voice of God in the silence. Yet he knew God was present. As I've reflected on these years of ministry, I am overcome by awe at the ways in which God was and remains present. In this season of serving, of being zealous for the Lord, what seemed like silence was not indicative of inaction. God has been at work. He has been moving, working, preparing even while I was completely unaware. He has been at work, even when I did not hear the sound. Indeed, God is dancing all around. For years, I've shared this truth, even while struggling to trust it for myself. I humbly confess in the words of Job:
I know that you can do all things, no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know... My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
Are you amazed by the Lord? Is that the season you are in? Or are you exhausted and doubting? Perhaps all you hear is silence and it's causing you wonder if God's abandoned you. I can tell you for certain that I understand. The seasons of desert can seem so long. It's difficult to trust and see God at work. But he's there. Dancing all around and orchestrating a symphony for your life that is far beyond what you can perceive. The challenge for you and I is to keep trusting, even when it's difficult, to cling to his promises, even when they seem vacant, to take each setback and hurdle in stride, trusting that God is doing more than we are seeing, more than we can hear, more than we can conceive. Keep pressing on in the silence, and know that God is present. And in time, stand in awe of all God has done. I assure you...he is at work.