Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sinkhole Syndrome

In June 2013 six-year-old Nathan Woessner was enjoying the day with his parents at Indiana’s Dunes National Lakeshore Park when one of the 124 foot sand dunes collapsed under his feet and buried him under eleven feet of sand. It took rescuers working frantically with digging equipment three hours to extricate him from the sinkhole.1 It is thought that the boy may have been saved by an air pocket that was created by an old tree that was buried deep beneath the dune. Amazingly, after a few weeks in the hospital the boy was released with a clean bill of health. 

Sinkholes occur, scientists say, when underground streams drain away during seasons of drought, causing the ground at the surface to lose its underlying support. Suddenly everything simply caves in, leaving people with the sneaking suspicion that nothing—not even the earth beneath their feet—is trustworthy. There are many people whose lives are resting on the tenuous edge of a sinkhole.  It is likely that at one time or another many of us have perceived ourselves to be on the verge of a cave-in. In the feelings of numb fatigue, a taste of apparent failure, or the bitter experience of disillusionment about goals or purposes, we may have sensed something within us about to give way. 

That is what happened to the prophet Elijah when he found himself pent up in a cave of depression. Elijah had reached his breaking point in the ministry, oddly enough, after his victory over the false prophets of Baal atop Mt. Carmel. In the midst of his despair Elijah lamented, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4). Ironically, God did not answer his payer and Elijah would be one of only two men in the Scriptures who would not taste death. 

Elijah’s pity party and the sinkhole syndrome reminded me that our spiritual lives are fragile entities. If we do not take time to nourish the soul with prayer, reflection on God’s Word and moments of rest then our inner life begins to be cracked and parched. The outer appearance may appear strong and sturdy, but inside are great voids caused by long periods of spiritual drought and erosion. Go too long without nourishing the soul and you will suffer from a sinkhole-like collapse. While in the cave of Horeb, God came to Elijah’s rescue. He spoke to the weary prophet through a whispering voice, sent an angel to prepare him food and then recommissioned him for the next leg of his ministry. 

Are you beginning to wear thin? Then perhaps you could follow Elijah’s example—retreat from the front lines, recharge your spiritual batteries by spending time listening to the Lord and then review what the next step will be in your service to the God.            

1. Rob Nelson and Alex Shaw, "Boy Trapped Beneath Sand Dune May Have Been Saved By Air Pocket, Officials Say," ABC News, 13 June 2013, <http://abcnews.go.com/US/boy-rescued-indiana-sand-dune-critical-condition/story?id=19657457>. 

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