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REJECTED—BUT NOT DEJECTED

I received another rejection letter this week—my second in my quest for publication. {{Big Sigh.}} I don’t handle rejection well, I’m afraid. My self-confidence plummets. I start believing that I am delusional; just kidding myself that I can really write. My determination to pursue publishing my work slips away and I want to just forget it and concentrate on writing for the pleasure of it and for the two dozen or so young readers who already love my books.
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I confess, I was dejected when I got that letter of rejection—for about eight or nine hours. I cried. I moped around. I told Robbie, “Mommy’s sad today,” hoping for a little sympathy from him, I guess. I didn’t get it. I didn’t get any sympathy from Bob, either—just a pep talk to keep at it. I didn’t really want to hear that just then.
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Maybe I would have handled it better if I hadn’t received a critique, as well, from the associate editor who had read my manuscript. At first I was excited that she had sent it. I don’t believe that is the norm—they usually send a letter that says thanks, but no thanks, and that is it. She had taken the time to actually critique my work, however, and send me a list of suggestions on how to improve it. I don’t have a problem at all with constructive criticism and trying to learn from it. The more I read it, though, the more disheartened I became.
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The manuscript I sent was for the first book in my Noble Heart series. (For those of you who have read the first edition of this book, I had added two more chapters and pumped it up a bit all the way through in this revision.) The editor didn’t have anything positive to say about it. The plot, she said, needed more tension. The major criticism of the characters was that some of them were too flat (i.e. “Noble – Just as his name implies, Noble’s heart is in the right place and he always says and does the right thing. A perfect person doesn’t need to grow; therefore Noble is a flat character.”)
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I understood most of the criticisms, and plan take them to heart and work on those problems. I had reasons and had made a conscious decision, however, in some of those areas to write the way I did because I wanted the plot or character written precisely that way. For example, I wanted Noble to be “noble” and of high character and a good role model. He did struggle with loneliness and fear in this book, and I thought he did grow in his faith, but perhaps I did not write that part strongly enough. Perhaps the plot did not have enough tension because I don’t want a lot of violence in my books. I will have to work on other ways to increase the suspense, I guess. I was not trying to make excuses, but just thinking through the reasons I wrote the characters and plot the way I did. There was actually only one critique that I thought was off base and that was when she said Noble had had only one encounter with his enemies before the climax of the book. That was not true—he had numerous clashes with them before the climax, but apparently she forgot that.
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I know I probably sound defensive, and I suppose I am a bit. Writing a book is like having a child—when you’ve given it your all for months and have finally finished what you think is something beautiful, you’re proud of it and will defend it like a mama bear! So, although I was actually grateful for her critique and hope to learn from it, it was a little hard to take, too.
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As I said, I was down and dejected. A couple things happened later that evening, though, that turned me around. One of them was receiving an encouraging e-mail from another author who has been published. He was the one who had put me in touch with the publisher, so when I finally heard from them, I e-mailed him to let him know about the rejection. He had a number of things to say to encourage me, including telling me about the dozens of rejections he had received. Then he said, “Never let a rejection discourage you. It should challenge you.” That was just what I needed to hear. Then he went on to tell me that the all time best selling series ever written, Chicken Soup for the Soul, was rejected by no less than 49 publishers! I know I don’t have the fortitude to stick to it through 49 rejections, but maybe I could handle a few more, after all.
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The second thing that happened was a conversation I had on the phone with my granddaughter Sara. I had just told her about the rejection letter, and was about to tell her that I was not going to pursue trying to publish that book. Before I could get the words out, though, she said, “Grandma, I am so proud of you that you keep trying anyway to get your work published!” Whoops! How could I disappoint my grandchild, or have her think less of me because I quit? I had to start re-thinking my feelings about this. It lifted my spirits to have her voice such confidence in me, when I didn’t have that confidence myself.
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So, rejected I may be, but I’m no longer feeling dejected. I will pick myself up and try again, if not with this series, then with one of my others. For now, I have to finish the book I am working on before I can get involved with sending another manuscript off. Trying to get published takes a lot of time and hard work—time and effort I need to and would much rather put into writing creatively.
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This experience, though, had me thinking about how often we are tempted to quit when things don’t go our way, or someone criticizes us, or we feel inadequate. My mother used to often tell me that I came from good, strong, pioneer stock. Pioneers who didn’t quit when things got tough, but who pressed on; pioneers whose backbones were made of determination, perseverance and resolve. They shouldered their responsibilities, they fulfilled their obligations, they did their duty. My pioneer ancestors endured the hard times and setbacks, they rose above the obstacles and failures, they did their best and they didn’t quit.
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Those good, hardy genes run within me. I feel the spirit of those pioneers who have gone before me, and yet there are often times when I am tempted to quit. The important thing is not to give into that temptation. The Lord gives us encouragement and strength in His Word when we feel weak and disheartened. We must not quit:
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When things don’t go our way – Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT) Did it ever occur to us that all these hopes and dreams and plans we have for ourselves may not be the even more wonderful plans that God has for us instead? We wonder why the Lord doesn’t bring us what we want when He has something better in store for us. His plan may not include the worldly acclaim or wealth that we envision as symbols of our success. His plans for us may be humble and small and not recognized by anyone else, but great in His eyes when we obediently and faithfully fulfill His will for our lives.
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To tell the truth, I don’t really care if my books are published or not as long as they are used by the Lord somehow in the lives of the kids who read them. I have felt for some time that, above all, I want my writing to be a ministry for His honor and glory. Oh, the money, earthly success, seeing my name in print in the bookstores and being able to say that I am not only an author, but a published author, would be nice, but they rank far, far below my desire to have my work be a ministry first and foremost. If He wants me to use my writing for Him as a ministry, then it is up to Him how large or small that ministry is. He will open doors if He wants me to reach more people.
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From the time I was a little child Proverbs 3:5, 6 was special to me. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me. I just have to trust Him, follow His path for me and not quit. Someday I hope to hear His words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”
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When we are criticized – Criticism, even constructive criticism, is often hard to take. Our pride may be hurt. Our defenses rise up and our self-esteem goes down. We are tempted to rush to react or respond; sometimes in negative ways. We may even want to quit.
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There are many times when the criticism we receive is unjustified, undeserved or even untrue. I think at those times we just have to shrug it off and remember that God alone is our judge. He knows our heart and our motives. Remember Job and his so-called friends? They had no idea what the Lord was doing in Job’s life, or why He allowed all those things to happen, but they sat back and oh, so self-righteously shot off their mouths, giving their opinions and advice. They themselves were just as much a part of the trials Job was going through as the rest of it. It is at those times that we need to simply remember that His Word tells us, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31.)
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There are other times, however, when we need to listen to constructive criticism and learn from it. Sure, I was not happy about the list of criticisms I received from that editor, but I would be a fool not to pay attention and try to learn something from them. In fact Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” Proverbs 19:20 backs that up, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” Forget the hit to our pride. Learn, grow and go one. Don’t quit.
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When we feel inadequate – This is the hardest one for me to overcome. I have struggled with self-esteem issues most of my life. When you feel that you’ve failed in the past, when your sisters all have wonderful careers and you are “just a housewife,” when you’re struggling with weight, etc., it’s really easy to feel that you just don’t measure up.
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We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. God made us just the way we are and set each of us on our own unique path. His creation (us) was good and His plans for us are good. If nothing else can lift our self-esteem, these words ought to: “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” (Psalm 139:17, 18) He is always thinking of us, always loving us. If He thinks we’re worth that much, why shouldn’t we realize our worth, too? We need to see ourselves the way God sees as—as His children who are of such infinite value and worth that He gave His Son for us. That is precious, isn’t it?
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Okay, this is where I have to confess—I do have an ego! I still burst out laughing out loud sometimes after re-reading something I’ve written for the tenth time. I can still move myself to tears at something I’ve written that tugs at the heartstrings. Boy, if that isn’t egotistical, I don’t know what is! My self-confidence when it comes to writing, however, is fragile. Criticism, or even the lack of any feedback, starts me questioning if I’m really good enough or if I’m just kidding myself. Like a lot of men I know, my ego needs to be stroked a lot. 🙂 (Just kidding, Honey!) Thank goodness, my grandchildren are really great at that! It is the self-doubt and lack of confidence that brings me down.
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The Bible has something to say about that, too. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” If this truly is a ministry that He has called me to, then I don’t need self-confidence—I just need to put my confidence in Him! He has promised to work in me and through me until His work for me here is over. We are told in Psalm 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” How simple is that? Place my work in His hands, trust Him with it, and let Him do what He wills with it!
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We cannot allow blows to our ego, hits to our pride or knocks to our self-confidence (whatever you want to call it!) discourage us from the work He has called us to do! We need to pick ourselves up and get right back to work! Just don’t quit!
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Keep on “keeping on!” Philippians 3:13, 14 says, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Forget about the past failures. Forget about the past successes! We are to reach for the work that God has called us to do; to press on and not quit.
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The pastor I grew up with for over twenty-five years was fond of a poem called Don’t Quit and every once and a while he would pull it out and use it with one of his messages. Lo, and behold—I was able to find it on the internet in about two seconds flat! Here it is. Although I did not write it, it is a little inspiration for all of us from my past:

DON’T QUIT
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns.
And many a failure turns about.
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are.
It may be near when it seems so far.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
– Author unknown –

REFRESHMENT—THE CURE FOR WEARINESS

I have been soooo tired all week. Tired to the point that I couldn’t even write, which is really unusual for me. I kept falling asleep with my computer on my lap, and my brain felt fuzzy when I was awake. I finally gave up and decided to take a break for a couple of days. I feel much better now and ready to get back to work.
I know one of the reasons for my exhaustion. Robbie has his days and nights mixed up again. He sleeps a lot, anyway, because of all the seizure medicines he takes, but all week he’s been sleeping all day and evening and then staying awake through the wee hours of the night. When Robbie doesn’t sleep at night, I don’t get much sleep, either. It’s hard to accomplish much when you’re only getting three or four hours of broken sleep a night.
I stagger out of bed in the morning, my eyes barely open, hair tousled and standing on end (trust me, it’s not a pretty picture!) and go out to the kitchen to get Robbie’s food and medicine and take care of his needs first.. Then, at last, I look forward to my coffee in the morning. No, not because I need that caffeine rush (I drink only decaf, even in the mornings) but because my husband has prepared my coffee for me the night before and all I have to do is push the button to start the cofeemaker when I get up. It is one of his little tokens of love for me that I appreciate the most. Doctor it up with a little Sweet’N’Low and some flavored creamer, and Ahhhhh…
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My cup of coffee, my Bible and notebook, and some time with the Lord—and I am ready to start the day. In the winter I feel all cozy in the warmth of my living room, but once the weather breaks I can’t wait to enjoy that time out on our sun porch with its sunshine and breezes, the birds entertaining me in the neighbors’ rain gutters and an occaisional squirrel peeking through the windows at me. This is my time of refreshment—and we all need some refreshment to get us going from time to time.
Refreshment is the cure for weariness. Just as there are many causes for our weariness, the Lord has provided many ways for us to be refreshed. I’ve taken the letters of the word refreshment and made an acrostic of it to look at some of those ways. We’re also going to take a little look at Elijah (read I Kings 17-19) and see what we can learn from a period in his life when he was just plain weary and needed the refreshment of God to lift him up.
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R – Rest This is the obvious one. I’ve never been real big on sleep, anyway—until now when I’m really lacking it, that is! I’ve been a night-owl all my life and still managed to be an early riser. In my younger years I always felt like I was missing out on something when I was sleeping. As I got older I appreciated those hours to myself when everyone else was sleeping. Now I know that the lack of sleep is one of the culprits in diabetes and heart disease (I have both) and a host of other physical ailments.

Not only is rest essential to our physical health, but we also need it for our mental and emotional health, as well. In the book of I Kings we see the prophet Elijah serving the one true and living God in a land of idolatry, even when he felt he was all alone. He faced the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, he challenged the king, he fled the wrath of Jezebel until finally he sat down under a juniper tree in the wilderness and said, “Lord, why don’t You just kill me now?” Elijah was just plain weary. He had worn himself out and now he was drained. He needed a time of rest and refreshment.

Jesus Himself needed rest from His labors. He encouraged his disciples to rest, also. Mark 6:31 says, “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” Rest is necessary for our physical, mental and emotional health, but there are other things that will help to refresh us, as well.
E – Encouragement Elijah isolated himself when he was depressed. We often do the same thing when we are feeling discouraged and down. This is the time, though, when we need encouragement, whether it be from our brothers and sisters in the Lord, Christian radio, a good Christian book, or whatever. Sunday mornings, when we are tired and weary after a long, hard week, Satan is right there whispering that we need to stay in bed. What we truly need, though, is to get up and find encouragement in the fellowship of believers at church, in the preaching of the Word and singing praise unto the Lord. Hebrews 10:24, 25 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
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F – Faith Weariness affects us spiritually, as well. When our defenses are down, Satan is right there, looking for the crack in our armor that makes us vulnerable to his attacks. Elijah allowed his faith to be shaken and so he became fearful. He feared Jezebel’s threats more than he trusted God at this point and fled for his life. Hebrews 11, which is commonly called the “Hall of Faith” lists heroes of the faith, “who, through faith…out of weakness were made strong…” (vs 32-34.) Isaiah 40:31 says, “But they that wait upon [trust in] the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Faith in God will make us strong. When we are truly trusting Him we can rest in His faithfulness and love.
R – Refocus Elijah indulged in a little pity-party. When he whined to God that he was the only one left in Israel that was faithful to Him, God told him there were seven thousand others who had never bowed their knee to Baal. When he fled to the desert he threw himself to the ground and said, “You may as well kill me now, God, because I am as good as dead anyway.” He took his eyes off the Lord, he forgot about the others in Israel who were still faithful, and focused on himself and his own problems. When we are weary and discouraged we need to take the focus off ourselves, quit indulging in our self-pity, and refocus on the Lord and others around us. “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1,2) “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
E – Ever-Thankful Nothing is more revitalizing to me than praising God for His many blessings. When we start to count all the ways He has blessed our lives it is impossible to stay down in the dumps. Apparently Elijah forgot to count his blessings. The Lord sent ravens to feed Elijah morning and night, He provided for him through the widow, and later even sent an angel to minister to him. Through the Lord, Elijah miraculously raised the widow’s son from the dead and defeated Baal’s prophets by calling down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice for the true God of Israel. You would think these occurrences would bring a spring to his steps and a smile to his face as He rejoiced in what God had done. When we are thankful and praising God there is no room for depression or discouragement. Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things…” He promises peace and rest when we are thankful. “Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
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S – Scriptures Elijah heard the voice of the Lord in the middle of his weariness. God did not speak from the mighty wind, or the earthquake or the fire, but in a still, small voice. It is in our times of discouragement, when we are laid low by weariness, that we can hear the Word of God bringing us encouragement and refreshment. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be…” (Deuteronomy 33:25) “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31) “…always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:58) Having these words of comfort and encouragement in our hearts, and being in God’s Word daily means that His refreshment and renewal is right there for us when we need it.
H – Help We need encouragement from our fellow Christians, and sometimes we need their actual, physical help. Our self-pity or pride may cause us to refuse help when it is offered. Sometimes we think we can handle things ourselves and don’t want to bother others, but when we do that we are cheating our brothers and sisters in the Lord out of a blessing. The Bible tells us to “Bear ye one another’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2) I Thessalonians 5:14 says “…encourage the fainthearted, support the weak…” In Galatians 6:10 we are told, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” We need to share the burdens—not only others’, but on the other end, our own. Elijah had helpers along the way to minister to him—the widow, an angel and Elisha. God sends helpers to us, also, to refresh and encourage us and we need to be willing to accept that help.

M – Music I’ve got to confess, I’m not finding any music here in the story of Elijah. Perhaps the lack of music is significant, though. If Elijah had whistled a little tune or plucked on a harp and sung, maybe he wouldn’t have been so blue! Okay, I’m being a little facetious here, but seriously, I believe music is a special gift from God to bring comfort, peace, joy, encouragement and yes, refreshment to our weary souls. Even if I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I can still enjoy all the benefits of music. David used music to minister to Saul when an evil spirit came upon him, and the Bible tells us Saul was refreshed and was well. (I Samuel 16:23) The New Testament instructs us, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” (Ephesians 5:19) and “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16) Good news for those of you who think you can’t sing—it says in your hearts. Whether we’re listening to music, singing in our hearts or simply singing where no one can hear us, there’s no excuse not to use music to refresh ourselves!
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E – Enjoy Life See the humor…the beauty…the wonder in life around you. When your spouse has you frustrated and your children have worn you down, look for the positives, the good in them. They’re there somewhere, trust me! When you’ve flubbed up—again—learn to laugh at yourself. When the hair dresser bothches your cut, or you’re cleaning up a dozen eggs that hit the floor, or you’re trying to stretch the spaghetti sauce by adding ketchup and hoping no one notices, don’t let it get you down. Move on. Life is too short and too precious to let the little things wear on you. Elijah was not a very humorous fellow. He wasn’t paying attention to the beauty and wonder of the world around him. Good reason why—he was facing down four hundred and fifty false prophets, a mad king, a wicked queen and running for his life. Maybe, like him, we’ll be weary, too, when it is the major things that hit us—a serious illness, the death of a loved one, loss of a job, the straying of a spouse or child— but don’t let the little things drag you down, too. Proverbs tells us, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (vs 17:22) and “…he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (vs 15:15) Sounds good to me!
N – Nourishment The Lord specifically tells us in these chapters in I Kings how He provided nourishment for Elijah during these difficult days in his life. He sent ravens to feed Elijah bread and meat twice a day when he was beside the brook of Cherith. He miraculously provided food for not only Elijah, but also for the widow and her son. When Elijah was at his lowest God sent one of his angels to bake a cake for him and give him a cruse of water. Wow! God must feel nourishment is pretty important when we are weak and weary. The angel said to Elijah, “Arise and eat for the journey is too great for thee.” (Isaiah 19:7) When the journey is too great for us, we need to remember that we need physical nourishment, and we need spiritual nourishment, as well. Some people have trouble eating when they are under great stress. Then there are the rest of us who do nothing but eat under stress. We need to take in proper nourishment to refresh our bodies when we are weary, and we need to take in the milk and meat of God’s Word to refresh our spirits.
T – Time We become weary many times simply because we are not using our time wisely. We procrastinate, and when we procrastinate we feel the pressure of things hanging over our heads. It makes us weary. We fail to prioritize so we end up running in a million different directions. The important things don’t get done, but we’ve been working all day—and things are still hanging over our heads. Then there are the times we run ahead of the Lord, failing to wait on His timing and will. Things never go well then, and we are once again stressed, frustrated, discouraged and weary. Learning to use our time wisely, learning to allow God to work things out in His time and way will bring about rest and refreshment in our lives. We are told several times in the Bible to redeem the time, which means to use our time wisely. (Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5) Ephesians 5:17 also says, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” That includes the timing of His will. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the LORD… and He shall strengthen thine heart…” Again, Isaiah 40:31 tells us, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Elijah waited for God’s perfect timing when he went up against the prophets of Baal. All day long they had called upon their god to hear them, but when there was no fire from Baal, when the four hundred and fifty prophets were worn down and bloodied from their efforts and when the people of Israel had seen for themselves that Baal did not hear them, then at the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah called upon the Lord God and He heard him and answered with fire from heaven.
Elijah was a great man of God. Let’s not forget that. But in a time of weariness, stress, loneliness, and fear, he succumbed to discouragement, depression and even wishing for death. If a man like Elijah can fall like that, certainly we, too, will curl up in our little fetal ball now and then and have our little pity-party or be too exhausted to even move. The Lord has given us many means of refreshment and when we let Him—and others—help us, He will lift our bodies, our hearts, our minds and our spirits in strength, faith and joy.