September 29, 2011
Under the Juniper Tree
My soul, wait thou in silence for God only; for my expectation is from Him (Psalm 62:5, ASB).
Friend to Friend
Elijah is a great example of a man in need of rest. One day he was the conquering hero, the next we find him sitting under a Juniper tree, wallowing in self-pity – and begging God to let him die. The poor man was simply exhausted. True, it was an exhaustion produced by victory, but it was still exhaustion.
Elijah called down fire from heaven, proving the existence of the only true God, destroying idols and idol worshippers. Big stuff! In fact, it is my personal opinion that he should have been celebrating. So why was he so discouraged? It was a woman, Jezebel, who was largely responsible for his discouragement.
Jezebel was the evil and influential wife of Ahab, King of Israel, and widely known as the real power behind her husband’s throne. Jezebel did not worship the one true God of Israel. Instead, she was fanatical in her worship of the pagan god, Baal, and tried to impose her beliefs on the people of Israel. One man stood in her way – Elijah. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a showdown on Mount Carmel, God answered Elijah's prayer with a stream of fire from heaven. You would think that a miracle like that would have convinced Ahab and Jezebel to believe in God. It didn’t. In fact, Jezebel was furious. When she learned what had happened on Mt. Carmel with the fire and idols, she put a contract out on Elijah. Now stop and think about that for a moment.
Elijah had been in the presence of God. God had heard and answered Elijah's prayer, putting on an impressive fiery display for all to see. Idols had fallen. The prophets of Baal had either fled or been destroyed. And Elijah is worried about one angry woman? Elijah was tired and needed to rest – big time. He found that rest while sitting under a Juniper tree, waiting in silence for God to show up. I know. God had showed up in big ways for Elijah, but this time, Elijah needed a personal, one-on-one encounter with his Father. I’ve been there, haven’t you?
I’m not very good at waiting. I don’t like to wait on anyone or anything and often view the waiting rooms of life as missed opportunities and unproductive circumstances to be avoided whenever possible. And as far as silence goes, if there is a word to be spoken, I will gladly speak it. In fact, for much of my life, I have tried my best to avoid silence and solitude. However, I am learning that while the seasons of silence and the waiting rooms of life are different in nature and purpose, they are always for my ultimate good.
Silence sometimes falls like a sweet, gentle and refreshing rain. I don't have to do anything, be anything or seek anything. I am just with Him and He is with me. I crawl up into my Father’s lap and wrap my arms around Him and find healing and restoration. I fall in love with Him all over again as He reminds me that His love for me is unchanging and unconditional. The Father gently reassures my frightened heart that He is not going anywhere and that I can count on Him to be with me – no matter what!
But there are also times when waiting in silence feels more like a bottomless pit from which there is no escape. The darkness is filled with fear and unanswered questions threaten my peace. I am lonely and don’t understand what God is doing. I am tired of being hurt and disappointed and quitting seems like the easiest way out. My energy is gone and no one seems to understand.
It doesn’t really matter what compels us to crave time under the Juniper tree. It only matters that we come. Clinical depression brought me to my knees and drove me to seek God as never before. It was there that His truth pierced my heart and changed the course of my life with the promise found in Psalm 40:1-3:
I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD (Psalm 40:1-3, NIV).
Oh, I had read the book of Psalms many times, but in the silence under my personal Juniper tree, it settled into my soul and really took root. I began to learn how to wait on God. I came to the precious place of desperation and cried out to Him. I made the deliberate choice to trust Him like the helpless child that I am. During those precious moments, we laughed, cried, and talked about the trials that brought me to the pit of darkness. For the first time in my life, I began to realize that anyone or anything that makes me cry out to God can be counted as a blessing.
I am learning to embrace the silent times of waiting as gifts from His hand to my life. So time under the Juniper tree is good. Sometimes I just need to be reminded. How about you?
Thank You, Lord, for arranging the circumstances of my life so that I must stop and rest and sit at Your feet in quiet solitude. Thank You for the healing I find there. Thank You for the new truth and redefined purpose for my life. Help me apply the truths I find under the Juniper tree and then give me the strength and determination to share Your plan of deliverance with those who need your restoration.
In Jesus’ name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Do you long for times of silence or avoid them whenever possible? Why? I encourage you to find a few minutes each day this week to spend in silence before God. Establish the habit of a silent retreat when possible. Read the Psalms daily and keep your gaze on God.
More from the Girlfriends
We will never be free from stress this side of heaven – so we had better figure out how to deal with it. That’s why I wrote the bookEscaping the Stress Trap, a verse-by-verse study of Psalm 23. If you read Psalm 23 every day for a month, I promise you will see a difference in your stress level.
Come as You Areis Mary’s NEW Online Bible Study that begins September 26! The most common invitation offered by Jesus Christ is simply to "come." He doesn't ask us to fix what is wrong or expect us to clean up our lives. That is His responsibility. Jesus loves us just as we are and when we come to Him with a "yes" in our hearts, He lovingly transforms the broken places into beautiful scars of healing and new life. Enroll before October 1and have access to all 2011 lessons. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebookor through email.
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Click here to learn more about hosting a Girlfriends in God conference in your area or having one of the GiGs speak at your next women's event.
Originally published Thursday, 29 September 2011.