Time magazine did a cover story on the subject of fears and phobias a while ago. It reported that 50 million Americans have some kind of fear or phobia. They are not the kind of phobias we would naturally think of. They were rather unusual and included things such as the fear of bathing, the fear of sitting, the fear of bicycles and even the fear of numbers.
But then there are very real fears we deal with at times. Maybe you have been threatened with a lawsuit. Maybe someone has threatened you or a member of your family. Maybe you have even found yourself sinking into the depths of depression because of your fears.
In the history of Israel, we find the story of Elijah, one of God’s miracle men, who had just experienced an incredible victory after a showdown with the prophets of the false god, Baal, on Mount Carmel.
Elijah had issued a challenge to the people of Israel: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21 NKJV). The people were going back and forth. On one hand, they wanted to worship God. But on the other hand, they wanted to bow before Baal. They wanted to bow before the altar of sex and violence.
If you worshiped the true God at this particular time in history, you could lose your life for it, because you were doing something the king and queen didn’t want you to do. The people were afraid to stand up for what was true. They didn’t want to face the wrath of the king and the queen. But Elijah was saying, “You have to make a stand. If the Lord is God, then serve him. If he isn’t God, then don’t serve him.”
Moses issued a similar challenge to the Israelites when he said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side – come to me!” (Exodus 32:26). Joshua said something very similar: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:14). Jesus himself said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Luke 11:23).
In the same way, there are people today who try and live in two worlds. They want to go to church on Sunday. They want to know they are going to heaven. But then they want to go out and live as they please. They are going back and forth, and it is a miserable state.
The Israelites were worshiping gods made out of stone, gold, and silver, with eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear. And Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal exposed their religion for what it was: a false one. As a result, the people changed their tune. God demonstrated his mighty power, and the people turned back to God.
Sometimes we have to see this world for what it is before we really turn our back on it. I have seen it happen many times. Someone who knows what is right goes out and tastes what the world offers. Then they see it for what it is: miserable, empty and sinful.
That is what the people of Israel were seeing. And when King Ahab told his wife, Jezebel, what had been happening, she essentially said, “Before this day is over, that prophet is going to be dead. You can let him know that.”
How do you think Elijah would react to something like that? This was God’s miracle man. This was the guy who called fire down from heaven. But his reaction was quite surprising, unexpected, a bit disappointing and entirely human. Elijah ran for his life. Then, after traveling for a day, he sat down under a tree in the wilderness and asked God to take his life.
Just a few hours before, Elijah had been serving God with courage. How could this happen? Yet Elijah was not the first servant of God to get down in the dumps. Moses became so discouraged once that he asked God to take his life. Jonah pretty much did much the same thing.
The problem was that Elijah was not thinking clearly. His emotions had gotten the best of him. Who can rationally explain fear and depression? There are certain things that cause fear, and justifiably so. But Elijah had allowed his problems to be magnified, and God was temporarily forgotten. When we are depressed or hurting, it is not the time to isolate ourselves from God’s people. That is the time to be around them. That is why the Bible says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10).
Also, low lows often come after high highs. The showdown on Mt. Carmel was over. God’s word had been confirmed. And Elijah, in some ways, had been running on adrenaline. Often hardship and depression can come after times of great victory. So what was God’s answer for Elijah? He sent an angel to him with something to eat. He also told Elijah to take a nap. Sometimes we simply need to give our attention to a few practical things, like feeding ourselves properly, exercising and taking care of ourselves.
Elijah had not done that. So after God had settled him down, he put things into perspective for him. He asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13). In other words, “This is not the place for you.”
Maybe you are experiencing a hard time right now. Maybe you are going through a time of difficulty. Get perspective. Remember that God is still on the throne. He loves you. He wants you to know him. He has a plan for your life. So don’t give up.