What are you doing here? Some thoughts on spiritual well-being
‘What are you doing here?’
As we continue to think about well-being, we turn out attention to our spiritual health and welfare. I wonder how you are doing in this area of your life? If you saw your spiritual life like a fuel gauge, would it be full up or hovering above empty? The author Selwyn Hughes once said:
‘If God is not satisfying our soul, we will seek something else to satisfy us’. (1)
I imagine we all know this to be true but we can all go through times in our lives where we feel spiritually empty and we struggle to connect with God. It is in these moments that we may look elsewhere for meaning and purpose. Sometimes we use language like ‘desert’ or ‘wilderness’ or ‘spiritually dry’ to describe this state.
This was certainly true for Elijah in 1 Kings 19. He found himself worn out, burnt out and struggling to hear the voice of God. It is in this context that God asks Elijah a question – in fact he asks him the same question twice. At first reading it seems like quite a straightforward thing to ask:
‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ (1 Kings 19 v 9, 13)
But as Dave Smith reminds us:
‘When an all-knowing God asks a question, it is not because he doesn’t know the answer.’ (2)
God wasn’t confused. He knew why Elijah was on his own and in a cave. He asked Elijah, not to discover some information, but because he wanted to engage in an honest conversation.
What are you doing here?
This question has similarities with the opening pages of the Bible when Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden and God asks “Where are you?” (Genesis 3 v 9)
God had not lost Adam and Eve – he was simply wanting them to articulate why they were hiding from him? Similarly, God wants Elijah to articulate why he is on his own and in a cave. What’s going on? What’s caused this to happen? How have you ended up here?
I wonder if God asked you that question today – ‘What are you doing here, xxxx?” - how would you respond? Maybe we’d try to ignore the question or at least change the subject. Often, we can feel like we have to pretend to be doing well and put on a spiritually triumphant front. That, somehow, if we acknowledge that we may be struggling spiritually then, in some way, we may be letting God down.
But the Bible does not say this. The Bible teaches us that Jesus’ welcomes us in our struggles and in our weakness. He says to us come to me those who are weary and heavy burdened. In fact, as Dane Ortlund writes in his magnificent book ‘Gentle and Lowly’:
“…Christ’s heart is not drained by our coming to him; his heart is filled up all the more by our coming to him…. When we hold back, lurking in the shadows, fearful and failing, we miss out not only on our own increased comfort but on Christ’s increased comfort. He lives for this. This is what he loves to do.” (3)
Maybe God just wants us to be honest with him, maybe he is inviting us into a conversation.
We don’t need to stay in a cave like Elijah. Nor do we need to pretend everything is all fine and put on a front. No, instead, as the living God asks us ‘What are you doing here?’ we can come to him in confidence, we can come to him in honesty, we can tell him what we really feel and where we are really struggling knowing that it is in these moments that we, being truly ourselves, can find grace and mercy in times of need. (Hebrews 4 v 16)
(1) p107, Christ Empowered Living, Selwyn Hughes
(2) p104, God’s Plan for Your Wellbeing Dave Smith, Waverley Abbey
(3) p38, Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund, Crossway