Elijah is overworked, stressed, and lonely.
His great victory over the prophets of Baal during the Contest of the Gods on Mt. Carmel had been followed not by further victory, but with rejection and the threat of death at the hands of the Queen of Israel, Jezebel. Having fled in terror from Jezebel’s death threat, Elijah wound up in the wilderness. Discouraged, worn out, and alone, he prayed that God would kill him. Instead, God sent an angel to feed him and saw to it that he got some needed rest. Then he got up and traveled on for another forty days. Finally, while he was hiding in a cave, God came to him and asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9)
Elijah responded, “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.” (1 Kings 19:10)
For Elijah, not only had the work of being a prophet been hard and tiring, it also seemed to be worthless. In all his years of preaching, teaching and working at telling his countrymen about God, what had he managed to accomplish? As far as he could tell, absolutely nothing. In fact, as far as he could tell, things had actually gotten worse. Where before there had been worshipers of Yahweh, today they were all gone with him alone as the sole follower of Yahweh. What had it all been for? Why had he bothered? Hence, his desire that God would simply kill him now.
In the popular movie staring James Stuart, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey comes to believe that he has wasted his life since he never achieved his heart’s ambition. Frustrated and bitter, he comes to the point of suicide and wishes that he’d never been born. He is rescued by a clumsy angel who shows him just what the world would be like had he, in fact, never been born: not a pretty picture.
We suffer myopia when it comes to ourselves and it is easy to underestimate the positive repercussions of any individual life.