I was put in time out several days ago by Evelyn my grand-daughter. We were pretending she was the Mommy and I was the daughter. I played a trick on her by empting my food dish and putting the food in various other dishes when her back was turned, then telling her I was all done eating. She was very surprised and then she said that I needed to go to time out. She walked me to a chair in another room and left me there to contemplate my disobedience. After I said I was sorry she let me out for a little time, but later she put me back in time out to finish my time there!
As I was driving home I began to question if God had something He wanted to tell me through this experience. God began to reveal to me the times He has put me in time out.
As parents we use time-out for punishment, contemplation of wrong, and repentance, and so does God. Jonah spent his time-out in the belly of a whale for not obeying God, so I think it’s natural for us to immediately question God with, “What did I do to deserve this?” As I investigated this further I realized that scripture shows that God has multiple purposes for time-out: punishment, repentance, protection, provision, a witness to others in our trial, refreshment, restoration, contemplation, meditation on scripture and our relationship with God, and giving us a new direction and purpose. Elijah is a perfect example of how God uses time-outs for other purposes than punishment.
Scripture tells Elijah’s story in I Kings. Elijah was called to be a prophet of God to King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Ahab worshiped the gods of his wife Jezebel rather than the one true God, so God called the prophet Elijah to prophesy to King Ahab that there would be no rain for 3 years because of his idol worship. King Ahab attempted to kill Elijah, but the Lord hid him at Kerith Brook. This was a time-out for protection.
When Elijah got to Kerith Brook he needed provision, so the Lord sent ravens with food and told him to drink from the brook. This system worked well for Elijah until the drought dried up the brook. (I Kings 17:2-7)
Once again the Lord told Elijah to move so He could better provide for him. This time the Lord commanded Elijah to leave Israel, go to another country and place himself at the mercy of a foreign unbelieving widow. Now this sounds crazy. Widows in Israel and Judah were taken care of and would have provision, but a widow in Sidon would have no one to help her since her culture did not have the Jewish law to protect and provide for widows. Elijah obeyed God and when he met the poor widow of Zarephath he had faith enough to believe that if God sent him there, God would provide. (I Kings 17:8-16)
Not only did God provide for Elijah, the widow, and her son for that day, but for as long as Elijah remained living with them. Each day as the woman went to the containers of oil and flour there was enough to bake bread for the day. The Lord used this experience to witness to the widow and her son that Elijah’s God was a god of miracles, which prepared her for the day she needed God’s miracle to raise her son from the dead. (I Kings 17:17-24)
When Elijah is called away from the widow he leaves her with the promise of protection and provision (through God and her son) and with faith in the one true God. His time-out provided a witness and conversion experience for the unbeliever. (God doesn’t waste a minute of a time-out.)
The story then takes us to Mt. Carmel where Elijah wins the contest over the prophets of Baal, then prays for rain. When the rain comes Elijah, under the power of God, outruns Ahab’s chariot only to find Jezebel ordering his death. Elijah was terrified and ran away as fast as he could. (I Kings 18)
After this powerful display of God’s power and miracles Elijah was exhausted and depressed. Maybe he thought all would be well when the contest was won, but all it did was stir up the attacks from Hell! Has this ever happened to you when you have ministered and God has come through and it looks like you’ve won but as you are feeling victory, the kickback of the enemy comes at you even stronger? It can cause you to question what good were your efforts were and make you feel all alone, depressed, and exhausted. This is what happened to Elijah, so he put himself in time-out under a broom tree and began to lick his wounds. Thank goodness for God’s mercy, for even as Elijah, mighty man of God, was having a temper tantrum and sulking, God sent an angel to minister refreshment, rest, and food to refuel him. After Elijah had slept and eaten he had strength enough to travel 40 days and 40 nights to meet with God. Some food and rest! (I Kings 19:1-8)
I Kings 19:9-18 tells of Elijah’s meeting with God on Mt. Sinai. This too is a time-out from ministry. It is a time to “see” God, to restore his personal relationship with God, and to receive a new calling for his future. The Lord is changing the direction of Elijah’s ministry to where he will begin to build a school for prophets and strengthen the faith of believers in Israel, Although he will continue to talk to kings, most of his work will be in the day-to-day training of more prophets including Elisha.
When one call of your life is finished the Lord will often give you a time-out which can last days or even years. Don’t let that discourage you. God is not finished with you. Use this time to meditate on scripture, get closer to God, improve your relationship with Him, and allow Him to prepare you for your future. David is another good example of this kind of time-out. Even though David was running from Saul and attacking enemies, he took time to meditate, write psalms, worship, and build a deeper relationship with God. Let your time-outs be times of: submission, re-direction, repentance, protection, provision, witnessing, rest, refueling, restoration, and renewal of a deeper relationship with God with a willingness to follow His new directions and purpose for your life. Don’t fight the time-outs God puts you in. Submit to them as the will of God for your good. Your good and loving Father wants to use time-outs as a growing and blessing time. Receive them with faith that God loves you and wants only the best for you and your future. (Jer. 29:11-13, Rom. 8:28-30)