“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10a)

There’s some level of discomfort when things are silent. Maybe it’s because culture fills our lives with so much noise. We Facebook. We tweet. We browse. We text. We hashtag. [pullquote]I don’t feel like I’m being productive unless I’m doing about forty-five things at once.[/pullquote] The amount of tabs and windows I have open on my computer right now—about fifteen—is indicative of this innate desire to busy ourselves. Busying ourselves gives us the chance to avoid silence. Silence is uncomfortable. Silence is discouraging, especially when that silence comes from the God of the universe.

But it happens, doesn’t it? Ask Elijah. He was riding a spiritual high. He’d just won a convincing victory in a battle with the prophets of Baal. God had shown up. Elijah had spent three-and-a-half years of ministry doing great deeds and experiencing God’s protection. But it took one threat from Jezebel to change all of that. She’d heard what he did to the prophets at Carmel and vowed to spend all her energy trying to take Elijah’s life (1 Kings 19:1–2).

And Elijah ran—a victor one moment, a coward the next. He made his way to Bersheeba, a region known for its unpredictable climate and dryness. Trials tend to do that to us too. We flee. We get away. And go to unpredictable places. Dry places. [pullquote position=”right”]Our conditions cause us to cast aside past victories like used paper towels.[/pullquote] And we find ourselves in a rut.

But Bersheeba wasn’t enough for Elijah. The threat was so severe that Elijah decided to go further into the wilderness. He left his servant at Bersheeba (1 Kings 19:3). He’d given up on himself. No need for him to bring someone else down in his misery, right? He’d deal with this alone. Things got so bad that Elijah wished he were dead (1 Kings 19:4). Little did he know, he was headed for an encounter with God.

[pullquote]Elijah vacillated between wanting to live one day and wanting to die another.[/pullquote] He left because of the threat of death; now he just wanted to die. Think about that. Elijah, the great prophet, struggled with life and death. In his narrative, we’re reminded that Elijah is a man just like us (James 5:17).

As I write this, over the past two months there have been reports of three pastors who have committed suicide. On the surface, they had perfect lives but were eaten alive by their trials. They preached people happy on Sundays, but they were unhappy themselves. People expected them to be more than what they really were—mere men. Men with struggles, pains, and heartaches who may have covered them to keep up the perfect appearance expected of them.

But Elijah would have none of this. He wore his humanity on his chest. He went to the one place he knew he could find comfort. He traveled for another 40 days in this wilderness, ultimately making his way to Mount Horeb—the same mountain where Moses experienced the burning bush and the passing presence of God (Exodus 3; 33). If I can just get to the mountain, he thought. But what he found on the mountain wasn’t what he expected. He got silence.

Here was a prophet who has seen the fire of God fall from heaven and devour an altar. He was used to God doing things on a grand scale. He was anticipating something big. Not this time. There was wind. There was an earthquake. There was fire. But God wasn’t in any of it. Elijah found his hope in the sound of a low whisper (1 Kings 19:12).  God’s message to Elijah—and to us—is that miracles and signs are great, but what he needed in that moment was God’s Word. That’s what was going to sustain him in his trial.

At times our stories mirror Elijah’s. Things can get just as bad for us. Trials come out of nowhere. All it takes is one phone call. One text. One conversation. And things go haywire. And as they go haywire, God seems to be silent. But [pullquote position=”right”]God says the same thing to us that he says to Elijah in his experience: I’m working…even in the silence.[/pullquote]

Moses and Elijah both meet God on this mountain. But they’ll later meet on another mountain (Matthew 17:1–3). There they’ll meet Jesus, the true object of their hope. There’s no fire. There’s no wind. There’s no earthquake. Just the Word of God—made flesh. Just as the disciples are getting ready to build tabernacles for Jesus and the two prophets, God speaks. “This is my beloved son…listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). Today, I leave you with those same words. Whatever the trial, listen to him. He’s working for you, even in the silence.

Editors Note: This post is an excerpt from John’s book, The Tenacity of Hope, a 30-day devotional on disappointments, loss, and everything in between. Starting with Genesis and ending with Revelation, John surveys the narratives found in the Old Testament and New Testament and offers readers words of hope. The book is available as a free .pdf download for his blog subscribers and on Amazon. Find out more about this title on John’s site: http://johnrichardsjr.com.