Platitudes are a pet-peeve of mine. By the age of thirty, I needed a shovel to clear a path through all of the platitudes about singleness that had been dumped on me. When people don’t know what to say, they fall back on the old standbys. While I am the last person that can criticize needless talking, I am aware that sometimes it is better not to speak. Recently, I have been looking at the problem of platitudes from a new angle. I am trying to communicate truth, but I feel as though what I am saying sounds just as trite as what I used to hear. I realize that just because a saying has been overused, doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true. As I try to communicate truth, I struggle with the fact that some truths can sound worthless because of repetition.
I have a couple of friends who are seeking God’s will and struggling to trust Him in their situation. I want to communicate to each of them the truth of God’s faithfulness, which is so real to me. I want to be an encouragement, but I feel like my statements are falling flat. I am confident that God is working in each of their situations, but how do I let them know that “God’s got this” without it sounding like just another platitude?
If a person had all day, or if I wrote a book about it, I could go through my life story and point out all of the evidences of God’s faithfulness that helped me get to where I am today. God used the trials, difficulties, and confusion to grow my faith, confidence, and trust in Him. We are so prone to looking at the big picture of our lives, that we tend to miss the thousands of small blessings God gives to help us along on our journey. Life’s big changes don’t usually happen overnight. Our God is a God of details. I firmly believe that He is active and involved even in the little things of our day-to-day lives.
[Jesus said,] “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of you head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
As I pondered some fresh way to communicate this truth to people I care about, God reminded me of how He had sustained Elijah. I searched and found the record in 1 Kings 19. The prophet Elijah had just slaughtered the prophets of Baal, after the LORD had defeated them in an ‘Altar-and-Sacrifice Showdown.’ Elijah then went to the top of Mount Carmel and prayed for God to send rain to end the three-and-a-half-year drought. Next, Jezebel heard about the slaughter of the prophets of Baal and sought to kill Elijah, so he ran away into the wilderness.
Elijah was physically and emotionally exhausted from the stress of all that had happened. 1 Kings 19:4 records, “And [Elijah] asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life. . .’” Then he went to sleep. God knew that Elijah needed rest, but he also needed sustenance. God provided this through an angel: “And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water.” (1 Kings 19:5-6) This happened twice, and verse 8 records that after eating and drinking a second time, Elijah “went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb. . .” Though it was miraculous how long the food sustained Elijah, we shouldn’t overlook that God met his basic needs for rest and food prior to sending him on his journey.
At Horeb, God spoke words of encouragement. Elijah thought he was alone, and the way he spoke to God, he almost seemed to be wondering if his service to the LORD had been in vain. God gave Elijah specific directions for where to go and what he was to do. This included instruction for anointing his replacement, which must have brought some relief, as well as assurance that God had heard his requests.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
God had a big-picture plan to change the circumstances that Elijah was facing. But before he laid it out, He took care of Elijah’s immediate needs. The LORD sustained Elijah so that he could finish his race strong and anoint his successor. God was in the details; He was in “the sound of a low whisper” at the entrance of the cave at Mount Horeb. (v.12) God knows the end from the beginning and never forsakes when we feel lost in between.
Elijah’s experience came as a specific encouragement to me this week. This is the God I know; He leads me and sustains me. Scripture reveals that God has a big-picture plan for this world which is fearful and awesome. Yet, it also reveals the truth that God knows the number of the hairs on our heads. I am sure He knows exactly how many of mine have turned gray! He cares to know. I have a lot to say, yet “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” (Psalms 139:4) It humbles me and brings me to my knees.