Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you are an Israelite in the year 865b.c(ish). You are a faithful Jew and have the privilege of living in the beautiful and sacred capital city of Jerusalem. There is, however, a problem. Enormous armies from all the surrounding nations are currently marching to wage war against you. You are vastly and hopelessly outnumbered. With every passing moment, you realize that you’re one step closer to destruction. Depressing, right?
Believe it or not, this was a real-life scenario that was recorded in 2 Chronicles 20. I highly recommend reading it if you have some time. I mean, can you even imagine being in this situation? The pressure is unthinkable. The stress is overwhelming. The stakes seem to be nothing less than life or death.
Perhaps though, some of us can imagine a situation such as this. It seems almost too real and too familiar. Why?
Because life can feel a lot like this sometimes.
It may not manifest itself in an extreme situation like war, but everyone has felt overwhelmed. Everyone has felt pressured. And often times the stakes can indeed feel like life or death. I don’t know what exactly this looks like in your life – maybe it’s the pressure to perform well in school, maybe it’s the painful sting of breaking up in a relationship, maybe it’s the stress of trying to be accepted by friends, or maybe it’s just certain sins that won’t stop going away. Whatever it is, the feeling just won’t stop. The invading armies just won’t disappear. In fact, the more we think about it, the closer they seem to be.
What do we do? Do we march out to fight the enemy with our own power? Do we just try harder in school? Do we just do more to impress our friends?
Do we ignore the situation? Do we keep carrying along our sorrow in a broken relationship? Do we act as if our habitual sins are not so bad?
The problem is that either way, we lose. Fighting will destroy us. Ignoring will destroy us. So, what do we do? What do we do when we don’t know what to do?
1.) Look Up. In their despair, the Israelites did the only thing that they could – they turned to God. Verse 12 might be one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible. It says, “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” This is a frantic cry for help that strikes me as genuine, raw, and real. Because believe it or not, realizing our inability to cope with a situation is actually the first step towards healing. Victory begins on our knees. No matter how bad the situation, God is always there.
What is even more astounding than the Israelites’ cry for help, is God’s response. Verse 15 says “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them…But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
I hope that is encouraging news for you. The battle is not yours – it’s God’s. The pressure, the stress, the desperation that you feel is not yours to bear. God is here to fight for you. But how does this actually work? Often times, we hear this and think that God is just going to magically make things disappear. With the swoop of a wand, all our troubles will be gone. What’s fascinating though, is that God doesn’t do that, not even for the Israelites. In his sovereignty, he could have wiped the invading armies out instantaneously. The Israelites would never have had to set foot outside of Jerusalem. They would never have had to leave their comfort zone. But that’s not what God does. Even though he pledges to fight on their behalf, he still sends them out. They still have to confront the enemy…and so do we. God doesn’t want us to hide from our fears or our stress. He wants us to face it – so we can watch Him defeat it.
2.) Give Thanks. As the Israelites marched out to the battlefield and stood facing their opponent, they were not silent. Verse 21 says “After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, signing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: ‘Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!’”
In the midst of our pressure and our stress, it’s so easy to lose sight of the good things God has done for us. However, knowing that God will fight our battle gives us the strength to do this. Notice too, that the singers walked ahead of the army. Thankfulness and praise should be our primary means of confrontation. When pressure or stress rears its ugly head, sing praises to God. If brokenness and sin weigh you down, meditate on God’s goodness. Joy in the face of sorrow, even if forced through obedience, is a catalyst through which God can work to bring victory.
So how does the story end? Verse 22 says, “At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.” Isn’t this amazing?! In the face of thankfulness and praise, God caused the enemy to essentially self-destruct. While this is certainly miraculous, I think the same is true for us today. When we realize our powerlessness, turn to God and give him praise, the enemies that we face will also begin to self-destruct. The things that we perceive to be a threat will no longer be a threat. In light of God’s sovereignty and goodness, the enemy defeats itself. The pressure for achievement in school turns to nothing when compared to the One who has already chosen us (John 15:16). The painful sting of a broken relationship turns to nothing when compared to the One who loves us unconditionally (Is. 54:10). The stress of trying to be accepted by friends turns to nothing when compared to the One who calls us his friend (John 15:15). The sins that won’t go away turn to nothing when compared to the One who has already forgiven us (Is. 43:25). The same is true for any other situation that you may face. God is always victorious.
The story in 2 Chronicles 20 ends with the enemy having defeated itself, and the Israelites taking an abundance of plunder from the battleground. In fact, they accumulated so much wealth that they ended up calling the location the “Valley of Blessing.” How cool is that?! The place the Israelites had thought would be their burial became their blessing. I don’t know how exactly this will take shape in your life, but it will. All we need to do is turn to God for help and praise him for who he is. Have faith to know that he will take care of the rest. Romans 8:28 tells us that he is working all things together for our good – even what seem to be the most desperate situations.
After all, God seems to have a habit of doing this. Just look at Jesus. Death on a cross became life for all.
With God, hardships become hallelujahs. Trials become testimonies.
So, don’t know what to do? – Just remember what God can do.
“When all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the Lord himself had fought against the enemies of Israel, the fear of God came over them. So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” – 2 Chronicles 20:29-30
Victory begins on our knees.