Have you ever experienced a season when difficulties seemed to dog-pile, one on top of the other, and you didn’t know how to bear the weight of your circumstances?
Whatever your combination of ongoing “hard stuff,” Murphy’s Law, in effect, hurts. We know we’re guaranteed to encounter suffering. Jesus spells it out plainly in John 16:33, saying, “In this world you will have trouble.” Although we can cognitively recognize and perhaps even accept that hardships are a normal part of the human experience, it doesn’t mean that our trials are easy to handle. Far from it!
So, how do we cope?
During a difficult season, I came across 2 Chronicles 20:1-22, a passage about King Jehoshaphat that rocked my world and provided the comfort and direction I needed to press on through the heartache. The way Jehoshaphat chose to respond to an epic battle can instruct us in better handling our own overwhelming challenges.
Seek the Lord.
After being notified that an army was coming against him, Jehoshaphat not only sought God, but he gathered his people to do the same.
“… “[He] resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.” (v. 3-4)
We need to follow suit, inviting our community to rally on our behalf when the enemy advances. I can’t imagine facing life’s trials without fellow believers by my side. For the past two years, I’ve met with a small group of women before work on Wednesday mornings for prayer and accountability. We also pray for one another throughout the week. As we seek God’s wisdom and guidance together and petition Him to move in our lives, not only have my friendships deepened, but my faith has grown. The Christian life is not meant to be lived solitarily. We need each other. We’re stronger together.
Although a king in high position, Jehoshaphat knew when to defer to someone higher in command — our Almighty God.
“You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…” (v. 17)
Romans 8 reminds us that God is for us and not against us, He works all things for our good, and we are more than conquerors in Christ. How’s that for ammunition? When I’m distressed, I can rest in knowing that God never changes and His Word can be trusted as true. I simply need to embrace it — even speak it aloud, at times — to minimize the power of my feelings and deflect the lies thrown my direction.
To stand firm, utilize Scripture. List out the lies you tend to believe and the common triggers. Then find a verse that speaks truth to the situation, rejecting the lie. Use these verses when tempted to sin, a trigger is activated or you feel the urge to wallow over unfavorable circumstances. After reading them several times, they will become familiar and eventually memorized.
Do not be afraid.
Although initially afraid (v. 3), Jehoshaphat overcame his fear to face the battle.
“…Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’” (v. 15)
Do you struggle with anxiety in fighting your battles? In addition to attacking fear by confessing your worries to your community and memorizing Scripture (as listed above), basic self-care increases mental clarity. The “doctor’s orders” for healthy eating, exercise and adequate sleep cannot be overstated. Find a hobby or activity that releases stress and promotes rest for your mind, and do it. If you must, schedule it on your calendar until it becomes a habit. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s a great weapon against fear and faithlessness. If anxiety is chronic or more severe, please seek professional help from a licensed counselor.
Jehoshaphat not only believed in God, he believed God.
“…Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” (v. 20)
Jehoshaphat’s prayer in verses 6-12 recounts God’s character, past events of God’s hand at work, and promises. We would be wise to do the same. Gratitude is essential to believing God. Have you seen His provision and protection in your life? Thank Him! Are you undone by His love, grace and mercy? Tell Him! Write down one thousand gifts, as writer Ann Voskamp encourages, one by one…perhaps 2-3 each night before going to bed. We trust Him with our eternal salvation and future. Let’s learn to trust Him in our daily lives by practicing gratitude.
Worship and sing praise.
Jehoshaphat worshiped the Lord, preemptively praising Him before the attack.
“Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.” (v. 18-19)
It’s easy to worship “all-in” when we’re healthy, the bills are paid, and work is smooth sailing. It’s much harder “when there’s pain in the offering,” as Matt Redman reminds us in the song “Blessed Be Your Name.” Commit to worship. Make a choice to rejoice. Bring your whole self — the hurts and hardships included — before God.
Practically speaking, turn up worship music on your morning commute and belt it out, even if tears are streaming down your face. In church, if your heavy heart can’t find the energy to sing, stand with your eyes closed and listen. Change up your regular prayer posture. Have you ever prayed prostrate, face down on the floor, or actually knelt at your bed? Why not give it a try?
A beautiful piece to the story of Jehoshaphat was that the enemy attack never happened. His praise prompted God to ambush the enemies, defeating them. Let’s choose to shape our lives around seeking the Lord, standing firm, crushing fear, believing God, and worship. Since reading the story of King Jehoshaphat, my circumstances haven’t changed…but I have, bit by bit. I have a long way to go on my journey with God, but perhaps sanctification, not better circumstances, is the point, after all.
How have you coped (and grown) through difficult circumstances or painful seasons?