Hope in times of Desperation

Hope in times of Desperation

June 9th, 2020 Reflection

By Renee Villa, Campus Director of Spiritual Care 

“Grant us what we need each day in bread and in sight.” –Neil Douglas-Klotz

1 Kings 7-16: 7 After some time, however, the wadi ran dry, because no rain had fallen in the land. 8 So the word of the LORD came to him: 9 Arise, go to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow there to feed you. 10 He arose and went to Zarephath. When he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called out to her, “Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.” 11 She left to get it, and he called out after her, “Please bring along a crust of bread.” 12 She said, “As the LORD, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a few sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Afterwards you can prepare something for yourself and your son. 14 For the LORD, the God of Israel, says: The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.” 15 She left and did as Elijah had said. She had enough to eat for a long time—he and she and her household. 16 The jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD spoken through Elijah.

A first glance this passage might not peak your interest, but hidden in this passage is a message of hope especially in times of desperation. Elijah, a prophet of the Old Testament, is near a brook that ran dry.  The climate in this area can be very arid and dry. Water is so important, and there is no rain in sight. Elijah listens for guidance from the Lord. The Lord states that a widow has been designated to provide for him. Typically, the widows of the time would be poor and in need of care just so they could survive. It would be highly unlikely that a widow would have enough surpluses to feed someone else.  Still, Elijah obeys despite any misgivings he might have. Upon arrival he notices, just as the Lord promised, a widow gathering sticks, and calls out to her. As the story progresses it is obvious that she has no previous knowledge of this encounter.  She tells him she has barely enough for her son and herself; that she is preparing to die. Another hopeless situation: barren like the dry brook. Then we hear the words so often uttered through scripture, “Do not be afraid.”

So there is a command to not be fearful, to perform a task, and then a promise, “Your jar shall not go empty, your jug shall not run dry.”  The ending of the story states that she had enough to eat for a year…quite an eventful day for Elijah and the widow! Perhaps they prayed to the Lord for help. And help came through an encounter with a stranger in a very surprising way.  What started out as barrenness and despair ended with unexpected provisions.  

As we live through these difficult times, this reading reminds us that God always answers our prayers in God’s time. He answers in surprising and unexpected ways. Let us pray for the grace to be open to the events of every day and look for the hiddenness of God.  Peace