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May 22, 2020

Yesterday got me reminiscing. I had put this off for a long time, but I had built up the courage to do it… so yesterday we purchased two funeral plots in a little slice of heaven called Eidsvold, Wisconsin. It is where the Starks family first settled when they came to Wisconsin and we have family interned there. It is a beautiful, rural cemetery.
The caretaker met me and as I was talking to the gentleman about cemetery plots, my phone rang. “Do you need to get that?” I looked at it, ignored it and continued talking. He must have noticed the strange look on my face, because he said it was ok if I wanted to take the phone call. I said, “No, it was the funeral home back home, I will call them later.” He had this look like “is there something you should be telling me.” (Note: It was about a funeral but not mine.) I explained that I was a pastor and we both agreed that it was eerie that the call came in just at that time.
Just for the record, I am not ready to die. We (I) had been putting off this purchase for some time because, well, there is just a finality to it. After I left the cemetery, I got to reminiscing and am grateful for all the joys I have experienced to this point and grateful to all those hard times and stumbling blocks that have made me stronger. Yes, there have been times of despair, but God got me through… and I hope God is not done with me yet.
Elijah is one of the most revered prophets in scripture. He is one of only two people in the Bible who did not die but instead was taken up to heaven. Elijah was a man of deep faith, beloved by God. Yet in 1 Kings 19, we find that Elijah was so depressed, so filled with despair, that he prayed for God to take his life. What could have led Elijah to such despair?
“Elijah lived in the ninth century before Christ, a time when Israel was divided into two kingdoms. Ahab and Jezebel ruled as king and queen over the northern kingdom, Israel. Their reign was characterized by evil, injustice, and idolatry. God called Elijah to confront the king and queen, but other prophets who had opposed them had been put to death. After a dramatic confrontation with Jezebel’s prophets atop Mount Carmel (see 1 Kings 18:18-46), Queen Jezebel swore that Elijah would be killed, too. Elijah fled, fearing for his life. But at some point, he began to fear something else. He was afraid that his life would never get better. He feared that his life would always feel as bleak as it felt in that moment. It was then that he ‘longed for his own death.’
All of us know the feeling that things will never get better – a fear that the pain or emptiness or despair one is currently experiencing or the dire circumstances one is currently going through will never change. You may have thought, If I’m always going to feel this way, I don’t want to go on. I can’t go on.
But God refused to take Elijah’s life. A premature death was not, and is not, the answer. Following his prayer, Elijah lay down and went to sleep. As he slept, a messenger from God tapped him and said, ‘Get up! Eat something!’ The messenger had a meal of bread and water prepared for Elijah. Elijah ate, then went back to sleep (which is often what we do when we’re depressed). A short time later the messenger woke Elijah again and said, ‘Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you’ (1 Kings 19:7). Note that the messenger didn’t say, ‘God’s going to fix it all real soon.’ No, the messenger said, “Eat something, because the journey ahead is not going to be easy.’ Elijah ate and drank and then walked for forty days, until he reached Mount Horeb, where he prayed, complaining to God. Eventually, Elijah felt God’s presence in ‘a gentle whisper.’ God listened patiently to Elijah’s complaints, then said, in essence, ‘Go back, Elijah, I have more for you to do.’ Elijah returned to Israel, where he continued his important ministry working for justice and confronting Israel.
I recently saw a woman holding her granddaughter in her arms, with a look of sheer joy on her face. I was reminded of how, ten years earlier, this same woman had come to me praying to die. I think of the man whose financial failure left him wanting to “end it all” but who chose to keep going. A year later he began to slowly rebuild his career, and today he is like a completely different man, filled with hope and fulfilled by a job he loves. There are countless other stories I could tell. They have filled me with the conviction that pain and darkness will not last forever. Get up and eat. Drink. Walk. Listen for the sound of the gentle whisper. Know that the Lord is with you, and that he’s not done with you yet.” (Adam Hamilton, Living Unafraid)
Yes, there was a time when I longed for my own death, but it was not to be. There have been many times where I felt like giving up and maybe you are feeling that right now. Please don’t give up. As I said in a previous devotion, N.G.U. Never give up. There could, no there are, joys right around the corner. Make the next step. Then the next… God’s not done with you yet. I conclude with one of my favorite quotes from a movie about the enduring power of hope. “I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” (Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption)
On a lighter note, I hope God keeps me around so I can experience the Minnesota Vikings winning a Super Bowl! Yes, I hear y’all now: Bud is going to live to be, like a 1000 years old. Well then, let’s get busy living! God bless and God’s got this!

About Rev. Bud Budzinski

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