It was that time again. Time to plan the annual Men’s Rafting Trip in Colorado. I had taken a group of fifty men a year earlier and discovered how some guys get the nickname “Bob” when they go rafting.
That’s all I want to say about that.
Now as I pulled out the file, I came across the list of men who had gone with me. What a difference 12 months had made! I was amazed at the profound changes so many of them had witnessed.
- Three had been fired from their work.
- One had quit his job and was unemployed for four months.
- One man endured an extended season of severe depression.
- Another had faced a dangerous autoimmune disease and was out of work for several weeks.
- One man’s career was at a dead end.
- Three others lost their businesses.
- One left for another state with no job in sight.
Put in Biblical language, “their brooks had dried up.” That is, they looked to a means by which God had provided for them in the past – health, strength, job, career – only to discover that the resource was no longer available.
Little did I know as I scanned that list that I, too, would soon face a drought of my own. Up until that time my ministry was fairly evenly split between an itinerant ministry and a part-time pastoral staff position. Within a matter of weeks, my traveling ministry had dwindled to two continuous months of inactivity. Then the church where I had served for four years terminated me, along with a number of other staff members, because of budgetary restraints.
That happens in businesses, but not churches! And certainly not to me!
To make matters even more interesting, my wife, who had already suffered an injury requiring her to miss six weeks of work, was also conveniently laid off from her job because of financial challenges.
“How are things going?” my pastor friend Doyle wanted to know.
“My brook’s dried up,” I replied.
What I said meant a whole lot more than I realized at the moment. A day later, I found the passage I had casually referred to. And I discovered a wealth of instruction for myself and anyone else facing such a season.
What do you do when you go back to those familiar ways in which God has met you, blessed you, provided for you – and face the grim reality that it just isn’t working anymore?
How do you respond when your familiar methods of prayer no longer seem to work, or your job, your church, your friendships, or your career path are no longer viable?
And to make matters worse, what if all this is happening, directly or indirectly, because of the evil actions of others?
Here are ten suggestions, based on Elijah’s experience with the dry brook and God’s subsequent leadership in his life. (You may want to click on the link above and re-read the passage first.)
1. Don’t back up on your obedience to God.
The brook dried up because the rain had stopped. The rain had stopped because Elijah had commanded it. The easiest thing for Elijah to do at that point would have been to pray for rain to satisfy his own personal needs. But God was showing His power to Israel through the drought, and this was no place for the man of God to compromise.
I’m truly sorry if I’m the first person to ever tell you this. But every believer, and especially those in ministry needs to remember, obedience to God sometimes results in dried up brooks! And if you think that somehow your life is supposed to be easier because you followed God’s will, get your head out of the sand.
Be teachable, be moldable, be flexible. But don’t compromise when it comes to obedience.
2. Seek the Lord about your direction.
Elijah made his decisions based on revelation, not reason. That’s important to remember when facing a crisis. We love to get our directives from men at times; that’s true even of people in ministry (even though we don’t like to admit it). But when the brook dries up, we must get our directives from the Lord. Yes, God uses people to speak into our lives. But he also wants to use us to demonstrate that He leads and takes care of His servants.
3. Be prepared to receive your provision from a different earthly source.
God’s provision for Elijah – and his assignment – was in another location. God had miraculously provided for Elijah through the ravens. But Elijah wasn’t sentimentally attached to the ravens and the brook. When God said, “Go,” Elijah was ready. We should be, too.
Let’s face it – many of us enjoy putting our roots deep into where we are, and for the most part that serves us well. But your dried brook may be an indication that the Lord has another assignment, or another location, or another means by which He wants to provide for you. And get this – as in Elijah’s case, it may also be an opportunity to benefit someone else’s life in the process.
4. Watch for God to provide through surprising channels.
God delights in coloring outside the lines! He didn’t send Elijah to a wealthy person, or to a king. He sent him to a Gentile. To a woman (not exactly an abundance of wealth in that culture). To a widow with a son (read “no source of income” here).
This single mother was more desperate than Elijah was! And that was the person God “had commanded” to provide for Elijah.
In my six-month-long dry brook experience, I was continually amazed at the creative ways in which God provided for us. We’ve received reimbursements from things I never knew I “bursed.” We had remote acquaintances drop by our house and bring financial gifts – some small, some quite large – with the testimony that “the Lord told me to share this with you.” What impressed me during that time was not the amount of the money, but the daily consistency with which God has met our needs for provision.
5. Release your attachment to forms and methods.
Don’t assume that God must always provide or show His power or use you or bless you in the same old ways. If Elijah had been like some Christians, he would have insisted that the only way God truly moves is through ravens and brooks. He would have started a Ravens and Brooks Society, or a Ravens and Brooks Church, or a Ravens and Brooks apostolic network.
But God’s priority is always faith and obedience, then people. Forms are always disposable, even though Christians have been arguing about them for two thousand years.
I’ll share the rest with you in the next post. In the meantime (and yeah, it is a mean time), if you’re going through one of those “dried brook” seasons, take heart. You’re in some pretty good Company. And I don’t mean Elijah or me.
Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:27-31NKJV).