When was the last time you were afraid of something? Fear can affect us both mentally and physically. You can feel lightheaded, you probably feel your heart racing, maybe you experience a panic attack, or realize that your stomach is suddenly upset … the body manifests a multitude of reactions to fear.
Our 100 lb. dog had surgery last week that made her very wobbly when she came out of anesthesia. We had difficulty getting her in the van and up the stairs, resulting in her losing control of her back legs and possibly pulling a muscle or a tendon. For the next few days, she was afraid of steps. We realized this halfway up an exterior staircase at my father-in-law’s cottage, where her fear caused her to slip through the opening between steps . Fortunately she is large enough that she didn’t fall through, but she froze and refused to go any higher. It was a scary moment for the four of us as we tried to get her up the rest of the staircase. My heart was racing for the next 30 minutes. Being afraid is very strongly connected with feeling out of control, and nobody likes being out of control.
Today we read about the famous and successful Old Testament prophet, Elijah. We harken back to a time when right after a major victory, Elijah suddenly felt afraid and out of control:
I Kings 19:1-8 (Common English Bible)
19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal’s prophets with the sword. 2 Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your life like the life of one of them.”
3 Elijah was terrified. He got up and ran for his life. He arrived at Beer-sheba in Judah and left his assistant there. 4 He himself went farther on into the desert a day’s journey. He finally sat down under a solitary broom bush. He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” 5 He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.
The contrast between the events in the previous passage, where Elijah single-handedly defeated the prophets of Baal, and this image of him cowering under a broom bush longing for death is stunning. It is a good reminder to us that even the strongest and most calm warrior can succumb to fear. The struggle is real.
Then suddenly a messenger tapped him and said to him, “Get up! Eat something!” 6 Elijah opened his eyes and saw flatbread baked on glowing coals and a jar of water right by his head. He ate and drank, and then went back to sleep. 7 The Lord’s messenger returned a second time and tapped him. “Get up!” the messenger said. “Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you.” 8 Elijah got up, ate and drank, and went refreshed by that food for forty days and nights until he arrived at Horeb, God’s mountain.
I love the interaction between the angel and Elijah. This angel wasn’t playin’. “Get up! Get up!” We think that someone having an “angelic voice” is a pleasant thing, but that is not what Elijah experienced. No, this angel sounded like a bullhorn in the pre-dawn hours that jolts you awake with its urgency.
Is God calling you to get up and get moving? Is he trying to awaken you to an urgent situation that requires you to do something? Is the alarm clock going off and alerting you to change your behavior, your attitude, or your thoughts before it’s too late?
Wake up and eat the flatbread! You see, when God tells us to get up and get going, he always provides sustenance for the task and the journey.
So that thing that you have been avoiding, that idea that frightens the heck out of you, or that calling that has you wishing for the broom tree comes with the guarantee of God’s presence and provision.
You don’t have to be afraid.