Finding the Way in the Ravines of Life

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1 Kings 17:2–6 (NIV)

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

CONSIDER THIS

Do you ever feel like your hearing of the Word of the Lord and your circumstances aren’t lining up? Do you ever feel like your efforts to follow Jesus have made your life more difficult? Do you ever feel as though things are not working out as you thought they would, even in the face of your attempted obedience to God? Do all these challenges and difficulties in your life ever make you begin to question whether you heard right or got it wrong? 

All of those feelings you are feeling—they are real—but they are just that: feelings. As my wise daughter, Lily, often tells me, “Observe them. Don’t absorb them.” 

Here we are today with Elijah in the famed Kerith Ravine. Famed? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the Kerith Ravine; at least I have never noticed it before. It’s not famous because Elijah was there. It is famous because God was there—okay, is there. Remember the reason Elijah was in the Kerith Ravine? 

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.”

Here’s the key text: So he did what the Lord had told him.

Elijah was in the ravine because the word of the Lord led him there. What is a ravine anyway? The dictionary defines a ravine as a deep narrow gorge with steep sides. 

The Spirit led Elijah into the wilderness where his devotion to God would be hammered into the deepest kind of dependence. It’s a place you don’t choose to go. It chooses you. Rather, I should say, God chooses you. Why? Because these are the kinds of places where he can most truly find you, the real you—places of need and even desperation—places of deep felt lostness. You can’t really be found unless you at least feel lost, right? 

Places like this, where one can hide, are isolated, remote, and even lost places. It’s why often when we find ourselves in places like this our feelings tell us we are lost. It is in these very places where our feelings of lostness can deceive us and drive us back to our old familiar hiding places: Fear, anger, blame, despair, indulgence, addiction, despair, anxiety, victimhood, codependency, avoidance, and we could go on. This is the point of the wilderness; of the Kerith Ravine. We thought Tishbe prepared us for this, and it did, and yet it did not. We began to learn the goodness and trustworthiness of Jesus in Tishbe. Only the wilderness can prove it out. 

“You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

The Kerith Ravine pushes us beyond our feelings, beyond our sincerity, beyond our familiar piety which are our preferred ways of experiencing God and expressing faith. Ravines push us to deep source and real substance.

“You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

For most of us, Jesus’ prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is a nice thought but it remains theoretical. The Kerith Ravine leads us into the reality where we learn we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. The Spirit of God leads us into the wilderness in order to reorient our appetites to give us an acquired taste for the Word of God; transforming the duty and discipline of Tishbe into delight and then desire. We go from bottled water to the brook; from worry and anxiety to “I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”  We call this the glory of transcendent provision. 

And these ravines . . . so often, the further we walk into them the steeper the gorge becomes. So many of us face these inescapable places right now in our lives: You make it through a battle with cancer only to become afraid your memory is leaving. You battle through breakthroughs with a premature infant only to lose the battle in the end. You agonize over a wayward child and deliverance seems to be within reach only to watch them walk away again. You build your ideal retirement and home only to find yourself having to put your beloved spouse in a care facility. The wounds of an oppressive and even abusive family just won’t let go and seem to lead you deeper into the ravine of dark, despairing-of-life depression. You know better but you can’t manage to feel better.

And maybe that right there is the real discovery. Our knowledge can’t overcome our feelings/experience. It is why our knowledge must become knowing. Our experience of Jesus must become greater than our experience of our feelings. In a ravine there is no up and out anymore; only pressing on or turning back. And many are so tired of pressing on at this point. There is another way. No, it’s not a middle way. It is not a balanced life. It’s not managing the tension. This third way is actually THE WAY. It is the way from one degree of glory to another. It is the way of abandonment to Jesus; the way of the cross; the way of death and resurrection. 

Can we bottom line this with Elijah today? It’s not going to get easier. In fact, it is going to get harder. Tomorrow the brook will dry up. At the same time, it will get better, and richer and deeper. This is how glory works. 

This is the way—from glory to glory. 

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, somehow we have already prayed today. These words have brought it all to the surface. I just need to offer you my heart today, my battered, bruised, and even broken heart. Hold our hearts Jesus. We need that experience of the knowing that surpasses knowledge now. We don’t want this ravine and yet we want your work to flourish in us. So we trust you; no matter the pain, the darkness, the wait. You are the way from glory to glory. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen. 

THE QUESTION

Have you been to the Karith Ravine? Are you there now? What is unfolding and transpiring? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, I have experienced life in a type of spiritual wilderness. It happened when I was forced to reevaluate my understanding of my relationship to the institutional form of church. I had come to realize that what I was experiencing in my faith tradition was incongruent with what was recorded within the pages of scripture. This led me to examine my own understanding of how I fit in. I’ve finally arrived at where I am today. I can’t really totally agree with any particular flavor (denomination) of Church, but can see certain strengths and weaknesses in all of them. I feel led by God to serve as a bridge builder between the various ORTHODOX groups of churches in my community. At this point in my faith journey, I’m planning on placing my membership in a local congregation, one in which I’ve been serving, sometime after November 1, at which time they will become a member congregation of the GMC.

  2. Our calling is to decrease–to willingly go deeper into dependence on God so that we become ever hungrier to surrender to and obey the presence of the risen Jesus. Then we will grow beyond knowledge about Jesus into knowing Him intimately and deeply within our innermost being and His rivers of living water will freely overflow with ever increasing glory. Listen to and obey Him when He sends you where you don’t want to go.

  3. Personally, when it comes to why saints suffer, sre chastened of the Lord or are being tormented of devils and all such as that I just grab up the book of Job and forget all the rest.

  4. Feelings are personal, perspective emotions we have depending on the experience or imagining an upcoming one. Feelings don’t always, rarely, represent the truth.
    Jesus is the Truth.
    No matter what we fearfully feel or experience, Jesus is just around the corner. We have to Submit to Him, Resist the little him, and Draw near to Him!
    John 14:27
    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

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