Recent news reports of record suicide rates in the armed services have been a call to prayer for me.
My heart goes out to each one, and I pray they experience the Bible’s promise “The Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Ps. 133:3). This call to prayer has also led me to study the life of the prophet Elijah in the Bible.
Elijah was often in dangerous situations as he served God by trying to turn people away from the idolatry of their rulers and toward the one God. Elijah was obedient to God’s directions, and this saved his life and also provided for his human needs.
During a famine and drought, God told Elijah to go to the city of Zarephath, where he could get food and lodging from a widow. However, when he arrived in Zarephath and asked for water and for food, he found that the woman was in dire straits. She told Elijah, “I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” The situation seemed so desperate that she had given up hope that there could be any other solution but to expect death.
Elijah, however, gave her a totally different outlook, and in a way that she could understand. He told her, “Fear not ... thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail.” The account continues, “She, and he, and her house, did eat many days.” This was clear evidence that material conditions don’t actually determine outcomes – if we’re willing to challenge them and turn to God for help.
Elijah continued through the years to bear witness to God’s power. But even he was tempted to give up his life at one point. He had angered Jezebel, the queen of Israel, and she had committed to having him killed. He felt isolated and alone, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life.”
God’s response was to send angels who provided sustenance and strengthened him. We, too, can listen for these angels, or messages of God’s love. It may be something simple like a beautiful sunrise that gives us new hope and inspiration, or the quiet camaraderie of a friend. Whatever good we experience, however simple, is a message from God, expressing His love and care for us.
Elijah faced many more challenges in his life, and God sustained him throughout them all. His decision to choose life, and to follow God’s leading, preserved his life and also enabled him to do much good for people, to defeat Queen Jezebel, and literally change the direction of his country.
This promise of God’s preserving and protecting power is present for each one of us, but I like to think that all those who are facing danger in war zones will especially feel His care. No barriers – mental or physical – can stop God’s messages from getting through to those who need them, whether they are in active service or retired. God’s messages can lift their hearts and minds above the sights and sounds of the war zone, freeing them from haunting memories, frustration, anger, and grief.
I pray that individuals tempted to give up their lives will open their hearts to God’s promised blessing, feel His love, and discover His plan for them. A hymn from the “Christian Science Hymnal” (No. 76) offers encouragement in this endeavor:
Hear His voice above the tempest:
I have not forsaken thee;
In My hand thy name is graven,
I will save both thine and thee.
Despite threats, violence, fear, or despair, God is always with His sons and daughters. Therefore, they can find the courage to choose life.