The illusion of the dead end: Lessons from Bible people
Months ago I experienced a disappointing situation that took my breath away. Ever been at that point in life were you base your happiness, your sense of purpose and direction on your next move, your next step or the next big thing only to have the rug pulled out from under you? Yup! That’s where I was.
I couldn’t for the life of me understand why things did not work out the way I had planned. After all I did all that I should have done. I prepared. And I prayed. Yet there I was, phone in hand, eyes glistening with tears, in shock at the worst news I had received in a long time. I was broken. Utterly distressed. And despite all I knew and still know, at that moment I felt hopeless. All I could do was slide off the sofa I’d been sitting on, curl into a tight ball and weep. And I wept. For hours. Because frankly I felt helpless and confused. I was at a dead end.
24 hours later I was eating pasta and fried chicken (don’t judge me) with my hubby, laughing at something we were watching on TV. I was in a drastically different state of mind. Only in hindsight did I understand and appreciate what I had done that day after I spoke with the lady who delivered the worst rejection I had experienced in the sweetest voice ever. I had manufactured a dead end. I had bought into the illusion that there was no where to go. It was a comfortable place to be. I could justify my feelings of despair and my reaction to the rejection by letting everyone know that I was in fact helpless. Couldn’t they see that I was not to be blamed for the situation my life was in? Couldn’t they understand that I had nowhere to go beyond this?
But was I really at a dead end? What really is a dead end? Merriam Webster defines it as a situation, plan, or way of doing something that leads to nothing further.
That begs the question, was I really at a dead end? My answer is no. I was never at a dead end. My situation was not hopeless, neither was I completely helpless as I loved to believe. I was at a crossroad. It was a very difficult place to be but not the worst that could happen.
How many times have we come up on a bump in the road and decided to pitch our tent there? Lots! Truth be told there’s something oddly soothing about wallowing in self-pity. People are forced to cut us some slack because we’re going through the storm. We get away with some mediocrity because we’re just having it tough. But for how long?
I believe that most of what we call a dead end in life’s journey is just a crossroad, from which point we have options.
Elijah experienced this in I Kings 19.
He had just been through what can be described as a huge victory over the false prophets who worshiped Baal. But the next day he was on the run because Queen Jezebel had threatened his life. Either Elijah was genuinely freaked out or he was a good actor.
After he had been running for a while he reached the desert, sat under a broom tree and prayed a funny prayer. “I have had enough lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
That sounds like a pretty good dead end to me. He was ready to quit it all. As far as he was concerned, at that moment there was nowhere to go. It was the end. He wanted to die.
But was it really the end?
Apparently not. After his self-pity filled prayer, Elijah lay down and slept. An angel came to him and brought him food to eat. Twice. With the words, ‘get up and eat, the journey is too hard for you.”
Journey?! I thought we were at a dead end. How do you go from ‘Lord I’m ready to die’ to getting pumped up for a journey ahead? Because there was never really a dead end anywhere. Elijah bought into the illusion of a dead end.
Further along in verse 14 of that same chapter Elijah whined and complained to God about what he’d been going through. How he was an endangered prophet about to be wiped out by a bitter, misguided queen.
Guess what? God didn’t even address his complains. What He did next was give him instructions for his next task.
Pause and ponder.
We try to put a dead end sign where God has only put a rest area. Your dead end is really not a dead end. It’s a crossroad. You have options. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, you always have options. It may not be one that is obvious or even appealing to you but you have options. It is never a dead end until the Lord calls you home.
We’ve all heard the stories of people who committed suicide because they lost their businesses or lost huge investments. Were they really at a dead end? No. They could have kept going. Sure life would be different without all the trappings of the good life but life is life.
Are you at a difficult time in your life? Lost a relationship? A marriage? A career? Are you at a dead end? No. It’s just a bump in the road.
Please hear my heart. I know that life can get hard. And struggles and heartbreaks are all shades of real. But you can rise above it. It might take you a while to learn to walk again but you’re never at a dead end.
When you feel you’ve done everything and there’s nothing more to ‘do’, stop doing and just trust. Have faith in the one who can do what you can’t.
Frankly, that’s what I’m doing right now.
Before you go:
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