How to Overcome Wallowing in Two Not-So-Easy Steps
Inside: Do you find yourself wallowing over everyday annoyances, burdensome responsibilities, or unfulfilled dreams? Two steps you can take to overcome wallowing and surrender to God.
Photo by Sunset Girl on Unsplash
Scripture passage: 1 Kings 19: 14-21, printed for you below.
“Do you know what wallow means?” the 11-year-old asked me. It felt like a pop quiz given without warning. Was this a trick question? I fumbled through a not-so-clear definition and then remembered this age-old tactic:
“What do you think it means?” I turned the question back to her.
Her confident response still has me grinning: “Wallowing is sitting on the couch, watching TV, and eating ice cream.”
Well, yes, that is one way to define wallowing! I still don’t know what spurred the question and the fitting word picture, but that picture sometimes fits us all too well.
Do you find yourself wallowing over everyday annoyances, burdensome responsibilities, or postponed or lost dreams?
Surrendering to God is more than hearing God’s voice. It involves a tangible releasing of our hopes, dreams, and desires to God–unclenching our grip and leaving the results to Him. In the process, we hopefully will feel compelled to follow His will, to do what He asks, because His will is always perfect.
It feels slightly sacrilegious to propose that the larger-than-life prophet Elijah had been wallowing in the cave at Mount Horeb. After all, this was the man who had successfully confronted 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the false goddess Asherah on Mount Carmel and had won in decisive fashion. But wallowing is exactly what he had been doing in the aftermath of God’s phenomenal display.
How different the Bible would read if it had recorded the personal lives of today. Picture Elijah not resting his head on a cold rock in a dark stone cave, but instead propping his feet on a couch, binge watching Netflix, and eating a double scoop of cookies and cream ice cream.
Thank goodness God chose a more austere era, and thank goodness Elijah bent God’s ear with his complaint rather than clicking through the channels or his phone.
It is here we find our first takeaway for today:
1. Elijah took his wallowing to the Lord
When God addressed Elijah, Elijah didn’t try to cover up his feelings. He didn’t gossip with friends or leave to herd sheep, the next best thing to Netflix. Although his prayer is awfully whiny, at least he prayed, and at least he whined to the right person–the only Person who could realign his world.
1 With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
2 I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him. (Psalm 142:1-2 ESV)
Surrendering to God involves deliberate communication with the Lord. If you are facing a situation that is beyond your capabilities, air your complaint to God, for He stands ready to listen to you.
God cared deeply for his fatigued servant, but surprisingly He didn’t say, “Go eat more ice cream.” Instead, God gave Elijah three assignments with kingdom purpose. (See last week’s devotion, What Is God Doing?)
2. Elijah actually did what God asked him to do
He departed from the cave, found Elisha, and anointed him as his successor. After reading the devotion on hearing from God, several readers noted that the hardest part might not be hearing God’s voice, but rather being willing to do what God asks!
Perhaps we don’t hear God speak because He is looking for an obedient heart, a person who will do what the Lord asks him or her to do. Are we not hearing because we are scared of what God might ask us to do?
It is a common fear, yet notice how closely hearing and obeying are linked in scripture:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27 ESV)
The friendship [or The secret counsel] of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. (Psalm 25:14 ESV)
Ah, surrendering to God involves actually doing what God asks you to do!
If you are paralyzed by wallowing, wondering what you are to be doing, look closely around you: What task has God placed in your path, so plainly that if you took a step in that direction, you would trip over it?
- Are you standing in your kitchen looking at a sink full of dirty dishes? Do the dishes. This is what God has put in front of you at this moment, and so washing the dishes can be your holy act of service.
- Is your heart burdened for a friend in need? Write or call your friend to offer support.
- Has God been prodding you to treat a coworker with more respect? Let God soften your heart for this person.
The tasks God gave Elijah were purposeful and directly related to furthering God’s kingdom on earth. In the same way, we are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).
As we wash the dishes, write a friend, or speak respectfully to a coworker, we are allowing God to use us for kingdom purposes. Through our ordinary toil with an extraordinary God at the helm, our children grow up to be generous and kind, our friend who needs encouragement gains strength, and the coworker who lacked our respect senses a supernatural change. May God receive the glory!
How can you overcome wallowing?
- Present your complaint to the Lord.
- Be ready to surrender to God by following through with whatever task God has put in front of you.
Over what do you find yourself wallowing today? How might surrendering to God help you find peace?
Be sure to continue with the Digging Deeper questions below for more ideas on surrendering to God.
Do you need help surrendering a situation to God? Click on one of these links to access a free printable of a Prayer of Surrender!
Digging into God’s Word: Surrendering to God
When God asks you to do something, will you do it? The first few verses below will help you remember last week’s devotion, when God gave Elijah jobs with kingdom purpose and showed His care for him. Today, take note of how Elijah responded to the tasks God asked him to do. (For a devotion on these same verses from Elisha’s perspective, see Are You All In? The Call of Elisha.)
1 Kings 19:14-21 (ESV)
14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
The Call of Elisha
19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.
Digging Deeper: Surrendering to God
Enjoy this time with the Lord! As you are able, reflect on these questions or journal your thoughts. You can come back to these questions throughout the week if you don’t have time to work through them in one sitting.
1. God’s character is consistent and unchanging. What He did for Elijah, He will do for you. God listened carefully to Elijah’s complaint and did not berate him. What complaint would you like to pour out to the Lord?
2. In 1 Kings 19:14-18, God gave Elijah kingdom tasks to do, and those tasks fit into God’s kingdom purposes. Despite daily annoyances or unfulfilled hopes, what has God put in front of you to do today? Ask God to give you purpose in His kingdom as you accomplish these tasks.
3. A friend of mine, Michele Kearns, who lost her husband several years ago, describes her journey to obedience this way:
In 2010 I heard the words “widow’s website” in my ear as I was waking up one morning. I looked up at the ceiling and told God, “Are you nuts? Joe did not teach me anything about websites before he passed!” (Joe was a computer geek.) So I did what any good Christian would do and blew God off. However, He kept nagging at me. Finally I did some research on widow’s websites and did not like what I found. After getting some advice, I wrote my first post which went live 1/13/2011.
You can find Michele’s website at https://joyreturns.com/. Instead of wallowing, she found purpose in surrendering to God. Can you relate to her story of blowing God off at first? Is there anything God has asked you to do that you’d like to confess to God you have not done?
4. If you like, use these songs to worship as you bask in God’s unchanging love for you and the purposes He has given you:
Your Love Never Fails (Newsboys)
God I Look to You (Francesca Battistelli)
Thank you for the recent Shares! If you have found this devotion helpful, please like and Share so others can hear the good news, too!
To start this series from the beginning, click this link: Elijah: Fully Surrendered.