So, seems we serve a God with a kind heart but wry sense of humor. How do I know this, you ask?
Yesterday morning I grabbed my cup of coffee and bible and though I only had a few minutes, headed to my favorite seat on my deck surrounded by All Things Fall decor and 68 degree outdoor morning perfection and plopped myself down for a good read. I turned to 1 Kings, chapter 18 and began to read about Elijah, Ahab and Obadiah.
Let me share a little backstory. Elijah is a major prophet in Israel, around 880 BC. This is after the glory days of Kind David and his son, King Solomon - by this point, the empire of Israel had split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Elijah brought God's word to the kings of Israel, and in this case, to King Ahab. King Ahab is noted in the bible as "more evil than all the kings before him." Obadiah was a God fearing man who incidentally, was also in charge of the palace under King Ahab. Each man bore quite a hefty responsibility in his vocation and in Chapter 18 their lives intersect.
For three years leading up to this, Israel had been suffering. There had been a severe drought and God had been fairly silent to Israel-at-large. Elijah had drawn the short stick and it was up to him to tell Ahab to put all the umbrellas on clearance and brace himself - there would be no rain for three years. Ahab was none too happy with the messenger and so God told Elijah to get outta dodge, stat. (Chapter 17, ESV - Elle's Simplified Version). Obadiah still honored and followed Yahweh God but also worked for a crazy, evil King married to an even more wicked, psychopathic Queen named Jezebel. At one point, Jezebel, consumed with hate and cruelty, ordered every last prophet in Israel to be executed. What did Obadiah do? He looked out for these people of God and hid them in caves so that they all survived the campaign of Jezebel's bloodlust, despite knowing that if he was caught, he would absolutely die for such treason.
Now at this point, due to the ongoing drought, Ahab orders Obadiah to go out and survey some new areas for potential water. On his journey, who does Obadiah run into but the missing-in-action-for-3-years Elijah. He's elated, thrilled he is still alive and excited for what this must mean - God is getting ready to act! And Elijah lets Obadiah know he gets to be in on the action and he has a quick job to do for the Lord:
"Go tell Ahab you've seen Elijah."
Now that may not seem like anything to us at first glance, but by the end of the instruction, paralyzing and panicking fear gripped Obadiah. This command was a death sentence and he understood that. Anxiety flooded into his body.
What have you been told recently that hit you like a ton of bricks and panic set in all around you? What has been keeping you up at night, holding your breath and freaking out over your loved ones because you're consumed by the fear of what might be coming? Something you are convinced is inevitable, you can't see any other result but the one staring you in the face?
If Obadiah tells Ahab that Elijah is back, Ahab is going to go all crazy on the messenger. That fear is real and legit. The logical conclusion upon analyzing the facts is indeed that he would be killed. And Obadiah immediately responds the way most of us do too when faced with that kind of scenario.
Utter emotional meltdown and panic attack:
What?! Obadiah cries out incredulously to Elijah. "But what have I done to deserve this?! Ahab will kill me!! As surely as your God lives, there isn't a country or kingdom where my master hasn't sent out search parties looking for you. And if they told him 'We can't find him; we've looked high and low,' he would make that country or kingdom swear that you were not to be found. And now you're telling me (me?!) 'Go and tell your master Elijah's found.' (Seriously?!) The minute I leave you the Spirit of God will whisk you away to who (the heck) knows where. Then when I report to Ahab, you'll have disappeared (thanks a lot) and Ahab will kill me!"
Do you hear the anxiety and anger rising with each assumption he makes? And he continues, as if that wasn't enough. Watch what the fear does to him:
"I've served God devoutly since I was a boy! (I don't deserve this!!) Hasn't anyone told you what I did when Jezebel was out to kill the prophets of God, how I risked my life by hiding a hundred of them, fifty to a cave, and made sure they got food and water? (and this is how you repay me, God?!) And now you're telling me to draw attention to myself by announcing to my master, 'Elijah's been found.' Why, he'll kill me for.sure."
I'm surprised Obadiah didn't just hand a sword to Elijah to strike him dead right there. Wow, how quick he just reacted to the news. And how quick he judged God. Or rather, misjudged Him. And then how angry and offended by God he was - he didn't deserve this, did God forget how well he had been performing for Him?! And how despairing and illogical he became - Elijah was going to abandon him by God's power to magically whisk him away - just disappear out of thin area so Obadiah would be left to look a fool, vulnerable and all alone.
It has a bit of a manic nature to it all. When faced with fear and anxiety, Obadiah reacted - he didn't stop and pray. He didn't seek God. He didn't count to 10. He didn't seek counsel and ask Elijah for his thoughts. He was convinced he knew what this news, this instruction from God meant: inevitable death. And no good fruit developed from this belief.
That's why you don't want to deal with reality without God.
What area of your life have you forgotten to slow down and check in with God about? What news did you receive that you panicked over or reacted to? What has your heart racing over and you cannot figure out how to fix your situation and it's affecting other areas of your life?
By His grace, God didn't let Obadiah believe these assumptions for long nor let him make decisions out of such anxiety, judgment, offense and fear. And I believe God wants to extend the same grace to someone today who is caught up in an emotional, mental frenzy, worried about something happening in his/her life today.
God's gentle, tender, reassuring and soothing word is this:
"You're safe, it's gonna be okay."
Led by God, Elijah responded to Obadiah's fear: "As surely as God-of-the-Angel-Armies lives, and before whom I take my stand, I'll meet with your master Ahab face to face this very day." (1 Kings 18:15 MSG)
Obadiah, what you're afraid is going to happen, isn't going to happen!! Stop worrying, because you're not going to die. God hasn't forgotten you, hasn't abandoned you, hasn't found you undeserving of His favor. This seems like an impossible situation void of any hope of life... and yet this situation is actually an opportunity to announce to those without faith (Ahab) that God is on the scene and getting ready to show His glory and faithfulness and provisional love for His people once again. He's got this one. Indeed, God goes on to keep Obadiah safe, Elijah safe and sent the rain to His people.
And He's got whatever you're worried about to. Don't worry, don't panic, don't react. Turn to Him and let Him handle it - He's telling you, it's gonna be okay.
"Return to your rest, O soul, for the Lord has dealt beautifully with you." Psalm 116:7
Oh, and the reason I said He has a wry sense of humor? Because He gave me this Word last Tuesday morning and I couldn't wait to share with others because I knew He wanted to tell someone that The Thing this person was worried about was never going to come to fruition and it was all going to be okay. Yay for them - an opportunity for faith building! And by Tuesday afternoon, I got my own set of news that came out of nowhere that is genuinely problematic and would naturally evoke fear and panic and no sleeping at night... and then He reminded me of Obadiah.
So, I'm right there with you, friend. The situation is bad, the temptation to worry is real, the prognosis looks grim today. But God says, "I've got this one, it's gonna be okay."
So instead of spending your time worrying or reacting, go play with your kids, clean the house, write a blog post, invite a friend over, minister to a neighbor - whatever you can do in your realm of influence with people to show that God is on the scene so people see His glory, faithfulness and love.
Breathe and say it with me, "It's gonna be okay."