We are going to remember our family holiday near Uddevalla in Sweden for a very long time. When we booked for the end of August 2014 we were unaware that the Swedish school term would have already started. As a consequence practically everywhere we went was deserted. We have rarely experienced such silence. The still and the calm added to the beauty of the area as we explored the beaches and fjords in our vicinity. Even small coastal villages seemed like ghost towns.
In terms of the spectacular there is little to compete with paddling through a fjord in kayaks when the sea is as flat as a millpond and as clear as glass, perfectly reflecting the sky like a mirror. One of my favourite photographs of our holiday is of our daughter when we were kayaking. When I look at that photograph it is difficult to tell which way is up. If I turn the photograph upside down it could be the right way up. But there are clues. One is the wake created by the kayak as it glides through the water.
There are times when it is difficult to tell which way is up as the confusion of life plays havoc with our emotions. To those around us everything looks normal, but on the inside we feel as if the kayak has overturned and we are struggling to know how to roll back to the surface. Panic might set in, or being upside down might begin to feel normal, as can thoughts that God has deserted us and left us to paddle on alone in the silence.
The prophet Elijah is a man who definitely should not have had an upside down experience. It greatly encourages me that he did. The thought that this incredible man of God could become so afraid that he ran for forty panic stricken days and then hid in a cave is almost unbelievable unless we remember that Elijah was as human as we are.
I guess we all experience times of panic; days when we can’t make sense out of anything, never mind which way up we are. God doesn’t seem to be there and all we want to do is run, but we don’t know where to go or which way to turn. Down is up and up is down and all of a sudden we seem to be alone and without help. It doesn’t matter whether we are becalmed on a mirror like sea or hiding in a cave – God has gone. He has left us all alone. Or has He? God didn’t leave Elijah, but it took silence for Elijah to hear God’s voice. God was there with Elijah all along, just as He is with us. We just have to be aware of the clues. Just like the wake of the kayak as it glides gently through the water, so God is there.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the L ord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13 NLT)