How Do You Handle Bad News? By Babatunde Olugboji
At the heart of the series we are starting today are 2 things: a letter and a prayer. In Bible days, letters were often the preferred means of communication, as illustrated in Nehemiah 6:17. ‘Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them.’ And before the advent of modern technology which has made communication so easy, the art of letter writing was considered an important requirement. Even today a letter is an important means of communication in both the workspace as well as our personal lives.
A letter is a written message that can be handwritten or printed on paper. It is usually sent to the recipient via mail or post in an envelope, and in the olden days, via a messenger between two parties. The two parties in our narrative are Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, and Hezekiah, Israel’s King.
Letters can be wonderful, especially those bearing good news. But there are also terrible letters we would never like to receive. In 2 Kings 19, we read about the letter Hezekiah received from Sennacherib, a very formidable foe. The King of Assyria ordered Hezekiah’s complete surrender, comparing the living God with the other gods of the peoples he had conquered. For Hezekiah and his people, this was dreadful news.
Bad news has been described as any information which adversely affects an individual’s view of his or her future. A dictionary defines it as an annoying, disturbing, unwelcome person or things, nuisance, a troublemaker. Sennacherib was certainly a troublemaker.
But thank God for the Word of God that helps us whenever we require support. As the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3: 16-17: ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’
In 2 Kings 18, the Sennacherib sent his military leaders with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They met up with King Hezekiah’s leaders and told them: our king says tell Hezekiah, your king: make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern.’ 2 Kings 81:31-32a. Have you been in a position when the enemy is pressuring you to surrender like Goliath did to the people of Israel in 1 Samuel 17?
Sennacherib’s lieutenants further told Hezekiah’s leaders: “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” 2 Kings 18: 32b-33 When this distressing news was reported to Hezekiah, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. 2 Kings 19:1. Eventually, Hezekiah’s story ended in praise. Yours too shall end in praise.
In the coming weeks, we will aim to understand Hezekiah’s response to bad news as we consider his Problem, his Prayer, and his Promise, at the end of which you will be equipped to prayerfully handle dreadful reports, which inevitably would come your way, even as a believer.
Have a great week.
Kingdom Dynamics, a weekly column is written by Dr. Babatunde Olugboji, the President, Kingdom House, a non-profit organization in New Jersey, USA.