Sharing Elijah’s Juniper Tree
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“Sharing Elijah’s Juniper Tree,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 66–67

Sharing Elijah’s Juniper Tree

I had had a difficult night. My joints, afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis, were hot and swollen, and it hurt even to breathe. The acute conditions had gone on for weeks, making sleep difficult, and on that Sunday morning I felt I could not go on, worn out from suffering.

Then my four-year-old son climbed in bed with me. “Tell me a story, Mommy,” he said.

I thought of the prophet Elijah sitting under the juniper tree, so I told my son his story. Elijah had called Israel and its king to repentance, but the king and his wife would not repent. Elijah called down fire from heaven that consumed the altars of the prophets of Baal. Queen Jezebel became very angry and swore to have him slain. Elijah fled alone into the wilderness and sat under a juniper tree. Tired and discouraged, he said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life” (1 Kgs. 19:4).

Those words expressed how I felt that day—I had tried my best and had given my all; I too wanted the ordeal to be over. It is enough, I thought to myself.

Somehow I dressed and went to church, but sacrament meeting had scarcely begun when the pain in my hips made sitting in my wheelchair unbearable. In tears, I asked my husband to take me to the foyer.

As we sat there I told him the story of Elijah sitting under the juniper tree. I explained that after praying, Elijah fell asleep. Then an angel touched him and bade him eat the food set there for him. Elijah ate and drank, then slept again.

A deacon came through the door with a tray and offered us the bread of the sacrament.

A few moments passed, and then I continued in a hushed voice with Elijah’s story. A second time the angel came to Elijah. “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (1 Kgs. 19:7). He did so and received strength enough to travel 40 days and 40 nights.

Soon the deacon returned. As I took the cup of water from the tray, a still, small voice spoke to my heart. Surely the Lord knew that the journey was too great for me and that I needed strength. Like Elijah’s heavenly feast, the bread and water the deacon offered would also sustain me. My feelings of weariness and despair departed, and they have never returned. I knew I could go on, in spite of the pain, for however long was necessary.

I am thankful for the Savior. Even though at times the journey may seem too long, I know that he is mindful of each of us and will give us strength to go forward.

  • Toni Thomas, a member of the Poway Second Ward, serves as stake media specialist in the Poway California Stake.

Illustrated by Robert Anderson McKay