How else would you describe the situation? Drought had ravaged the land — not just her land or her country, but the whole region. She was a widow with a boy. The barren countryside was devoid of life — the crops were gone, the grasses were gone, the trees were gone, and hope was gone. She was trying to gather twigs and small sticks to make a small fire. She would use the last of her oil and flour to make a small bread cake that she would split with her son. Then they would wait to starve to death because there was nothing else for them — no money, no food, and no provider.

Yet as the grizzled old Israelite approached her, something stirred inside — was it a dream or her imagination that she recalled? No matter what it was, there was a gentle stirring that reminded her to pay attention to the strange man and his unfamiliar God named Yahweh.

"Give me a drink, please, and while you are at it, could you give me some bread?"

Ridiculous. Everyone knew there was a famine. Everyone knew that even the rich had nothing to share. How dare this man, this foreigner, this outsider, ask her to make such a sacrifice! Her last supper with her son was going to be special, even if it was small and even if it was the last step before giving in to the inevitable.

"Yahweh has promised to make sure that your flour will never be used up and your oil will never run dry."

This was crazy. It was a risk beyond contemplating! It was a faith risk, and the faith was in a foreigner and his god that she didn't know every well. Yet something inside her, a reservoir of faith she did not know was there, calmed her spirit and she did what Elijah asked of her, and God honored her risk of faith with a far greater grace than she could have ever imagined — a faith that saved the life of her son more than once (1 Kings 17:1-24).

Elijah and the widow are an unlikely team. She is from the enemy country where Elijah's chief nemesis, the evil queen Jezebel, called home. She was a woman and he was a man. She was a widow and a non-Jew, a foreigner, and a mother. He was alone and Jewish and a prophet. She was on the far edge of the land near the Mediterranean Sea and he was on the other side of the land, leaving east of Jordan.

They had several things in common. The grace of God to provide. The need for food and water. The willingness to risk and trust God with the most risky and absurd promises. The recipients of incredible blessing because of their faith and their willingness to risk.

Rooted in this story is a reminder of God's concern for the foreigner, the widow, and the fatherless — a theme that runs throughout Scripture (Deuteronomy 10:18;  Psalm 146:9;  Luke 4:26;  James 1:27). Even more emphasized, however, is the willingness of two very different people to risk by faith, trusting for God to be faithful to his promises.

So let's ask a very simple question: What has your faith challenged you to do that is a risk?

Or maybe I should ask it a different way: Is faith real if we have to risk nothing?

Please don't give up in the darkness!
The widow of Zarephath found herself in a pitiful situation. Elijah's situation was equally bleak and pitiful. Then Yahweh, the God of the impossible, asked each of them to do the unthinkable — Elijah to leave his place of safety and go to the heart of the enemy's country and the widow to give up her last bit of food. Yet in taking these great risks of faith, the woman and her son were preserved and Elijah was protected.

We all will find ourselves on the dark side of the mountain — a place that is treacherous, lonely, and life seems impossible to navigate. But in those worst of moments, moments of despair and pitiful options, God promises to shine his light and asks us to risk doing the unthinkable and impossible, by faith. When we do, we find he does more than just provide for us, he truly reveals himself as our life-giving provider. He is our light on the dark side of the mountain — he is Yahweh our provider, Jehovah-Jireh. The real question is whether we will risk by faith and do what he calls us to do when we cannot see the logic of our faith or the light in our darkness.

I once heard this risk-taking kind of faith defined this way: faith is the bird that sings, while it is still dark, anticipating the dawn. Real faith allows us to risk during the darkness because we believe God's light will dawn for us, and for those we love. Our God has repeatedly brought light to his people trapped on the dark side of the mountain — so don't give up in the darkness, the dawn is even now rising in your night sky!

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace" (Luke 1:76-79 TNIV).