I was reading I Kings 19, where Elijah feared Jezebel’s threats, and, in fatigue, told God He’d had enough and wanted to die. Elijah then lay down and fell asleep. This passage jumped off of the page, because I’ve been there. I clearly remember many days and nights of my youth, laying down and praying God would just take my life. I was never actively suicidal, but I always attributed that to not having the guts to do something, anything about my situation. Instead, I just lay down, weary, and wishing God would end my journey as I slept.
For both Elijah and myself, instead of sending death, God sent His angels to provide sustenance. The angel even warns Elijah, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” This convinces me that when we feel like giving up, we have one thing right: the journey IS too much for us! But let’s get the rest of it straight, too: Our God supplies ALL our needs according to His riches in glory; He gives His angels charge over us to keep us in ALL of our ways; His strength is made perfect in our weakness! Oh how the enemy wants us to only recognize part of these precious truths. He wants us to give up after seeing the journey is too much; he wants us to hear half of the truth, that in this world we WILL have tribulation, but not but not the rest of that promise: we should be of good cheer, because Jesus has overcome the world!
But Elijah wasn’t the only great prophet to despair and ask the Lord to take his life. Moses, too, when his calling became burdensome, essentially said, “I’d rather die,” (Numbers 11:11-15). Likewise, Jeremiah and Job both cursed the days they were born (Jeremiah 20:14-18; Job 3:1-16), and Job explicitly wished for God to kill him (Job 6:8-13). And who can forget the drama king prophet, Jonah, who wished to die twice, both for selfish reasons (Jonah 4)? But I found someone else who said, “I’d rather die.” In I Corinthians 9:15-23, Paul contends he would rather die than delay the progress of the gospel; he’d rather die than people not realize he’d preach this great gospel free of charge, just because of the wondrous work of Jesus Christ; he’d rather die than be denied the opportunity to preach the gospel to a dying world!
So instead of just finding a reason to live, God’s given me a better reason to say, “I’d rather die.” Instead of saying I’d rather die than experience pain, I’d rather die than others not experience Christ. I’d rather die than have someone who’s crossed my path leave my presence without ever knowing of the God I love and serve. I’d rather die than sinners live alongside me and go to a Christless grave when I could have told them I heard a joyful noise: Jesus saves, Jesus saves! I could try to contain it, but like Jeremiah also said in the same chapter above, it’s like fire, shut up in my bones, and I’d rather die (Jeremiah 20:9)!