In the Bible, Eli was a priest. He was in charge of all the priests of Israel and had a special place in teaching people how to worship God. Eli started as an amazing priest, doing amazing things. Someone who cared greatly for the things of the Lord (such as the temple and ark.) But over time, he lost his way. So much in fact, that his protege’s first message from God was one of punishment. (Samuel was told to let Eli know his time was over, and Eli’s sons would be punished).
But Samuel didn’t finish much better. After starting out in dramatic, bold and faithful ways, his sons too betrayed God and led Israel into a monarchy (instead of being ruled directly by God.)
God then chose to allow Saul to become King. Saul was a humble (Samuel 9:21) and brave man (Samuel 14: 46-48). But he didn’t finish strong either. He became jealous, petty, and bitter.
This thrust David, soon to be Israel’s greatest king into the throne. And as you might imagine David started strong, but lost his way. David ended up committing murder to cover an affair. Which I’m pretty sure are bad things.
All 4 men were likely more accomplished, more spiritual, braver, stronger, better than you or I. In every way imaginable, they were men filled with amazing potential. Yet they couldn’t finish strong for the Kingdom. They all allowed life to get in the way of their faith.
There are days when Heather and I look at our lives and wonder how we’re going to get through the week. We feel overwhelmed by doctor’s visits, sleepless nights, complications from clubfoot, and all the normal problems that come from raising a kid. It’s hard to finish feeling like that.
On a nearly daily basis we have to circle back and remind ourselves of what’s important. Remind ourselves that we have to stay focused on the realization that that our suffering (and Eli’s) isn’t permanent. That things will get better. And if they don’t, then God is still with us, and he’s still working powerfully in our lives.
I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to do. Or that we’re particularly good at it. But it’s something that we are both beginning to see.
As I look at our own Eli, I wonder if he’ll finish strong. Will I be able to teach him to finish strong as his Dad? Those are questions we don’t have any answers to. They’re also the questions that keep me up at night more than any other.
But I am hopeful. Hopeful because God doesn’t forget us, even if it feels like it. But also hopeful because one of the things we’ve seen from Eli’s clubfoot that is a good thing is his determination. He never seems to have an easy path. Even getting over a typical ear infection takes multiple trips to the doctors, multiple types of antibiotics and shots. Crawling was no different. But through it all, Eli keeps working hard. Will this last when he’s 15? 45? 90?
I have no idea.
But there is hope. God never forgot Israel, even through the mistakes of Eli, Samuel, and Saul. And in the end David managed to pull it together. After making terrible, terrible choices, he repented and finished strong. There is always hope, but the hope isn’t in our own abilities, it’s in what God has to do.