When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi.

Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. (Judges 15:17-19)

In my last four blog posts I’ve been commenting on the theme of “Surprises of Anointed Ministry”.  In this last post of the series I will make a few comments about the surprising strain of anointed ministry.

Samson pictures for us a reality that people in ministry like to ignore or dismiss as unspiritual.  The reality that anointed ministry can take a physical toll on God’s servants is often overlooked or discounted in Christian circles.  Samson has just won a great victory over the Philistines.  He had done so with the incredible empowering of the Holy Spirit.  He was Spirit-anointed to fight the battle, yet at the end of the battle he is ready to die of thirst.  His anointed ministry did not over rule his physical necessity.  He still had a body to take care of. The battle, though Spirit-enabled, still wore him out.  He needed water to be refreshed.

The toll of anointed ministry on the physical body is seen in other Scriptures as well.  Elijah called fire from heaven, defeated the prophets of Baal and prayed down rain for his country all in one day.   The power of God was running in and through him in extraordinary ways.  The next day he is running from the threats of Jezebel and wanting to die.  Interestingly God begins Elijah’s treatment with 40 days of rest, food and exercise before he speaks to Elijah.  His servant’s anointed ministry had taken a physical toll and God addressed the physical need first.

One of the great surprises of anointed ministry is the depths to which we can fall physically, emotionally and spiritually after great victories or periods of time when God has been working through us in remarkable ways.  It is not uncommon for pastors or missionaries to go through emotional and physical slumps after times of demanding service.  Pastors sometimes refer to this as “Blue Monday.”  The day after the demands and excitement of Sunday ministry is often a time of great vulnerability.  It is on that day that many resignations are written and the experience of despair is real.  Medical doctors have referred to this experience as “post adrenaline depression”. A time when the body comes down from the adrenaline rush of excitement or activity.

We do well to anticipate and prepare ourselves for the day after anointed ministry.  Planning a less demanding schedule mixed with healthy doses of rest and activities we enjoy will do us much good.

The great news is that God knows our need and is able to respond to it.  Samson cries out and God creates a spring of water for Samson’s refreshment.  He brings water out of a hollow place to renew the strength of Samson, keeping him from falling into the hands of the Philistines.  God brought refreshment to his servant from where there was no visible evidence of anything that could restore.  Thus God is able to do for us in our times of depletion.

A further lesson I learn from Samson’s experience is that there may well be significant spiritual profit and advance for us in our times of depletion.   This is the first time we read that Samson cried out to God.  For the first time he looks to God for strength and renewal.  This first cry was fostered by physical thirst after anointed ministry.  Samson learns that God is the refresher. He realizes, perhaps for the first time, that he is dependent on God for his life.  There is a spiritual advancement in his life that wasn’t brought on by the threat of thousands of Philistines; it was brought on by physical need.

So too with us, our physical exhaustion can result in spiritual gain if we like Samson cry out for the help of God.  We love to live on the mountain of spiritual anointing when our greatest advance often takes place in the valley of physical depletion.