9 ...And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." 11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
[Elijah in the Wilderness, by Lord Frederick Leighton, 1878]
Elijah, spiritually and physically drained, ran for his life and desperately pleaded for God to end it. He had had enough as a prophet, he had failed. Alone, depressed, and suicidal (no one walks into a desert willingly especially without provisions) in his most desperate hour he tells God that he quits.
4 He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." 1 Kings 19:4 (NIV)
After restoring his strength with food and water brought by an angel he continues his forty day journey to God's main office: Mount Horeb (a.k.a. Mount Sinai). Maybe he was actively seeking God to restore his faith or just maybe he was making the journey to turn in his resignation. When he reaches Horeb the Lord questions Elijah, "What are you doing here?"
Those of us who actively seek the Divine, purpose, or even meaning in life come to a point where we want to resign and give it all up. What are we doing HERE? It may be at a dim point of our lives when we are faced with this question, and we may want nothing to do with answering it. Yet the question remains, what are YOU doing HERE?
The Lord asked Elijah to stand on the holy mountain for the Lord was about to pass by. There Elijah encountered three acts of Nature: a mighty wind, a tremendous earthquake, and a terrible fire. After each the text tells us that God was not in any of them. Was Elijah expecting God to be in any of them? I believe so, which made the final event for the prophet even more startling than the first three. Elijah comes from a tradition where the Divine speaks and acts through Nature. Humanity, having been separated and out of personal contact with the Divine since Eden, could not handle being in the presence of the Divine. Moses was allowed to see God's backside but not his face as He passed by Moses (Exodus 33:20-23). The Divine was no longer hiding behind Nature when Elijah heard the whisper in the cave. He knew that he was in the intimate presence of the Divine. And how more intimate can you get than a whisper?
There may be times when we want to distance ourselves from that which we are actively seeking out of frustration, loneliness, or even because we feel that we've had ENOUGH. It is at this low point that we must actively pursue the intimate presence of the Spirit. What we call the Spirit is entirely up to the individual. The Spirit does not have to be religious or even Spiritual because even Atheist and Agnostics seek the spirit of Humanity and focus on progressing our global community. When we intimately embrace that inner voice we can unlock a source of nearly infinite strength. It is this intimacy that gives hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak, comfort and companionship to the lonely. By reaching beyond religion, symbols, and beliefs we can find a Source within ourselves, an intimate whisper calling out that is drowned out by all of life's worries and fears. It has always been there calling out, "What are you doing here? Come in with me."