Trusting God Even In Trying Circumstances
During World War II, a US marine was separated from his unit on a Pacific island. Scrambling for cover, he found a cave” and crawled inside it. In the cave, he prayed, “Lord, if it is your will, please protect me. Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen.” As the enemy was beginning to draw close, he thought, “Well, I guess the Lord isn’t going to help me out of this one.” Then he saw a spider begin to build a web over the front of his cave. He thought, “What I need is a brick wall, and what the Lord has sent me is a spider web! God does have a sense of humor.”
As the enemy drew closer to his dark hideout, he could see them searching one cave after another. To his amazement, when they came to him, they simply glanced in the direction of the cave and moved on. He realized that with the spider web over the entrance, his cave looked as if no one had entered it for quite a while. “Lord, forgive me,” prayed the marine. “I had forgotten that with you, a spider’s web is stronger than a brick wall.”
When facing times of trouble, it is easy to forget that God can work in our lives, even in surprising ways, if we are willing to trust him wholeheartedly. Elijah was such a man who trusted in God with all his heart, as 1 Kings 17:1-16 and 19:10 indicate.
The name Elijah means “The Lord is God” or “The Lord is my God.” Elijah was from the tribe of Tisbe in Gilead, which was east of the Jordan river. He, along with Enoch, were prophets who did not see death but were taken up alive [Gen 5:24; 2 Kgs 2:11]. Along with Moses, he appeared to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration [Matt 17:5].
With this brief look at Elijah’s background, let us learn four characteristics exhibited by people who wholeheartedly trust God even in trying circumstances.
1. They Live For God’s Glory.
Glorifying God means to honor and magnify him in all things. 1 Kings 19:10 says, “I [Elijah] have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.” Elijah was a man who longed to see God’s name glorified. For him, the sole purpose of our existence is to bring glory to God.
However, sin, which hinders God from being glorified, was rampant during Elijah’s time. Israel, led by the wicked Ahab and Jezebel [1 Kgs 16:30-33], was living in sin and thus facing God’s judgment in the form of a severe drought. And Elijah was called to deliver this hard message of judgment in person to Ahab—not an easy task!
However, since Elijah was consumed with God’s glory, he courageously placed God’s word above his personal feelings. Being aware that God was watching him at all times, he boldly declared to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” [1 Kgs 17:1]. God divinely protected Elijah as he delivered this message [Prov 21:1]. God always protects his children till their work on earth is completed.
Like Elijah, we too must always live for God’s glory, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” [1 Cor 10:31]. However, living for God’s glory begins with accepting Christ as Lord, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” [Phil 2:10-11]. After doing this, one can proceed to glorify God in other areas.
2. They Obey God Without Any Delay.
After the confrontation with Ahab, Elijah was commanded to go away from all the people and remain by himself near the “Kerith Ravine” where he would “drink from the brook” and be fed by “the ravens” [1 Kgs 17:3-4]. Elijah’s reaction. He “did what the LORD told him” [1 Kgs 17:5]. He did not panic, hesitate, question, or doubt God’s word but obeyed immediately—without any delay. How contrary was his behavior to that of Jonah, who heard God’s Word but disobeyed and ran in the opposite direction [Jon 1:1-3]!
True to his Word, God fed Elijah through ravens and provided water from the brook. However, as time went on, God was preparing Elijah for tasks, which required a greater trust in him. 1 Kings 17:7-9 tell us that due to the drought, “the brook dried up”  and that God commanded Elijah to “go at once to Zarephath” where “God had directed a widow there to supply [him] with food” .
Zarephath was about 75 miles across the desert from the brook Kerith Ravine. Not only would it require a long walk, but this was made even more burdensome by the severe drought. In addition, Zarephath was the town of Jezebel’s father, whose name was Ethbaal, meaning “son of Baal.” Baal [another name for Satan] was a Canaanite god who supposedly provided rain for the people. The worship of Baal was very prevalent in those times, and Jezebel, by seducing Ahab, elevated the worship of Baal among the Jews. In fact, Ahab even built a temple for Baal [1 Kgs 16:32].
Elijah was not discouraged because of the distance or because this town was under Satan’s dominion. He knew that God’s children must be prepared to follow anywhere God leads them. 1 Kings 17:10 says, “So he went to Zarephath.” Elijah had resolved in his heart to obey God. He knew as God’s child, obedience to God was not an option. In addition, he also knew that God’s presence would be with him when he walked according to God’s Word.
What about us? We can talk all day about obedience, but are we spending a few minutes daily practicing it? Are we simply doing a great deal of talking but very little walking? The Bible warns against such inconsistency. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Jesus himself warns with seriousness, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” [Matt 7:21].
It is easy to obey God as long as it does not cost us anything—unbelievers can also do that! Jesus, however, calls us to “deny” ourselves, take up our “cross daily” and “follow” him [Lk 9:23]. It is not an issue of personal convenience but of total and unconditional obedience [Lk 14:33]. Elijah’s actions proved his clear understanding of this basic principle.
So, those who trust in God not only live for God’s glory, but they also obey God without delay.
3. They Are Humble Before God.
While it is important to be zealous for God’s glory and exhibit implicit obedience, it is also vitally important to possess a humble spirit. In Isaiah 66:2, we are reminded of the kind of heart God blesses, “…These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”
Elijah’s response to God’s commands reveals his humility. First, he was told to eat the food brought by ravens, birds considered unclean by the Jews. God could have chosen angels or other human beings to bring food to Elijah, but he didn’t. Second, God not only sent him to a gentile town but also to be fed by a gentile widow—not by any rich and famous figure. Elijah did not complain or cry but was humble and content to live every day and eat every meal in total submission to God.
Corrie ten Boom, a famous Christian who survived the Holocaust, was once asked if it was difficult for her to remain humble. Her simple reply, “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments on the road, and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?” She continued, “If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in his glory, I give him all the praise and all the honor.”
Someone said, “In every man’s life, there is a throne. And when self is on the throne, Christ is on the cross. But when Christ is on the throne, self is on the cross.” How true! We need to remember that God’s plan is not that Christ has a place in our life or that he has prominence in our life. Jesus Christ deserves and even demands, preeminence [i.e., be # 1] in our life.
What occupies the throne of our lives: Self? Possessions? Family? Position at work? Big House? Good looks? Talents? We need to ask God to forgive us for having anything or anyone on the throne besides himself and to give us the strength to repent and “rethrone” him as Lord.
God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to produce rain, broken grain to give bread, and broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is the broken Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever. The branch that bears the most fruit bows lowest to the ground, while the branch with little or no fruit stands high.
So, those who trust in God not only live for God’s glory and obey God without delay, but they are also humble before him.
4. They Walk By Faith In God’s Promises.
Incidents such as Noah building the ark or Abraham being called to migrate clearly indicate that God wants his people to walk by faith in his word and in his promises. Elijah was not called to do anything different either.
Imagine going to a brook and waiting for ravens to feed you every day, not knowing how long you are to live in this way. Imagine being told to go to a foreign nation where a nameless widow would take care of you. And when Elijah gets to Zarephath, this is what he sees—a poor widow, her starving son, a few sticks, a handful of flour and a little oil between them and death [1 Kgs 17:10-12]. Does not look very promising when seen through physical eyes, does it?
However, Elijah, with spiritual eyes, saw God’s hand even in this seemingly hopeless situation. He knew that little is much if God is in it. He knew that even in Jezebel’s territory, God would take care of his own. Despite a drought, he was confident that God would take care of him. Why? He was where God wanted him to be! He knew being in God’s will is the safest place to be! Unlike the unbelieving Jews in the wilderness, he knew that “he who promised is faithful” [Heb 10:23]. Therefore, with confident assurance, he asks the widow to prepare a meal for him and also assures her of God’s provision and care [1 Kgs 17:13-14].
It is also worthy to note the faith of the poor widow. Her simple faith in God enabled her to part with all of her food. 1 Kings 17:15 says, “She went away and did as Elijah had told her.” Again, we notice implicit obedience, and that too without delay! How much we can learn from this widow as well!
The result—despite the severe drought, God provided for his people, “For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah” [1 Kgs 17:16] God did not give them in abundance or in scarcity. He gave them their daily bread. Elijah [and the widow], without knowing all the details, wholeheartedly trusted God’s word and were not disappointed.
The lesson: We also must constantly depend on God for all our needs. We should never doubt in the dark what God has clearly told us in the light. His word clearly says that he is a God who can be trusted. We are to walk in faith through the right interpretation and application of God’s promises. No matter how dark it may seem, or how trying it may appear, we must be trusting God wholeheartedly—even when we do not have all the answers. We should remember that those who put God first will always find him with them in the end.
We are promised in Philippians 4:19 that our “God will meet all [our] needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Look back at your own life. Was not God faithful in providing all your needs even when you were not his child? And now, if you are his child, why then should you fear the future? He is an unchanging God. He never ever forsakes his own—not even for a minute! God himself has promised in Isaiah 49:15, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” By faith, we must believe in these promises given by God in order to help us trust him at all times.
To summarize, here are the 4 characteristics that helped Elijah and will also help all of us to trust God even in the most trying times of life:
(1) Live for God’s glory
(2) Obey God without delay
(3) Remain humble before him
(4) Walk by faith in his promises
You may be thinking, “I am not Elijah, a mighty prophet. I am just an ordinary person. Can I really trust God like him?” Scripture says, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are” [Jas 5:17]. Therefore, it is possible for every Christian to trust God as Elijah did and thus experience God’s protection and provision. Let’s keep asking the Lord to build these characteristics in our lives, for apart from his power, we “can do nothing” [John 15:5]!