I think I've been confused regarding what it means for a man to be strong.
I tend to think that strong means:
- confident or NOT alarmed.
- well-resourced...NOT having “nowhere” to turn.
- “If you need answers, you can look to me,” ...not, “Yikes! I don’t have any answers. I don’t know what to do in this situation.”
I tend to think that if I were really a godly man, I’d know how to handle all of life’s tough situations.
But the story of God and an ancient king named Jehoshaphat gives us a different picture of what strength is. It gives us a different way to handle overwhelming situations. It shows us that God doesn’t define human strength to be the ability to rise above all (or at least most) of life’s challenging situations.
According to God’s feelings, as revealed in this passage, strength is...:
- ...the ability to recognize our human state of being unable, incapable, in need.
- ...in our need, to turn to capital “S” Strength. (aka “God”)
- ...while our situation is still dire, to wait and stay in a place of neediness even though it feels very vulnerable and everything inside of us is screaming, “do everything possible to avoid situations like these!”
- ...before God rescues us, to fight to hope in God; believing that He will do what he’s promised...that he will do what he’s done millions of times in the past: RESCUE.
- ...to obey what God says to do, even though it might seem crazy.
Jehoshaphat must have known a lot about this kind of strength because, at least in this story, he gives us an inspiring example of what God thinks human strength should look like.
If you have a moment, read all of 2 Chronicles 20. If you don’t have a moment, here’s a list of how Jehoshaphat handled his overwhelming situation. I think it’s how God wants us to handle parenting’s overwhelming situations.
- He was alarmed (fearful/afraid). (vs. 3)
- He set himself to seek the Lord. That means DETERMINEDLY (as his vital need) to seek the Lord. (vs. 3)
- He gathered his people. (vs. 4)
- He proclaimed a fast in all Judah. In more words, he let other people know that there was something hard facing them. He was vulnerable. He did not hide or ignore the overwhelming nature of the situation. (vs. 3)
- His people gathered to seek help from the Lord. (vs. 4)
- Jehoshaphat, the leader of the people, stood up in front of all of them. (vs. 5) (Side note: A lot of people are afraid to face those they are responsible for when crisis or adversity arises. It’s scary to face people when you don’t have answers for how a crisis will be resolved. So the fact that Jehoshaphat stood up in front of his assembled people was huge!)
- He began saying things that were true about God. (vs. 6-9)
- He recalled promises God made. (vs. 9)
- He asked God to intervene. (vs. 12)
- He acknowledged that he and his people were powerless to face the overwhelming situation. (vs. 12)
- He said, “We don’t know what to do. But our eyes are on you.” (vs. 12)
- He made the Lord his single hope for making it through. (vs. 12)
- He and his people waited. (vs. 13) (Side note: In crisis a lot of people move quickly, fearfully looking for what/who will shelter, protect, or rescue them. This is the response of someone, in the middle of crisis, who doesn’t have hope. God’s people can be different though. In Christ we have hope even when we are faced with adversity. Who God is and what he does can allow us to be still while we wait for deliverance. So the fact that Jehoshaphat led his people to WAIT while 3 armies were approaching was HUGE!)
- God spoke to them with clear and practical details of how to handle the overwhelming situation. (vs. 14-17)
- In response to God’s practical help, he and his people worshipped. They praised God with a loud voice. (vs. 18, 19). (Side note: In crisis a lot of people can only thank and praise God once they’ve been delivered from what was threatening. Jehoshaphat and his people worshipped before they were delivered. While their enemy was still a threat, they worshipped because they heard God’s voice. Again, this was HUGE!)
- They obeyed God’s direction. (vs. 20-21)
- When it was time to face the overwhelming situation, Jehoshaphat reminded the people to let God’s revelation/counsel influence how they acted or approached the situation. (vs. 20) In other words he said, “This is the moment of truth. As you face your enemy, an enemy that is overwhelming you, don’t act the way you tend to act. Don’t act the way you feel like you should act. Act, instead, according to what God has spoken to us. Let your feelings, responses, actions, words flow not from your “gut response” but from what God has spoken to us.
- He made sure praise was offered to God in the middle of the hard time. (vs. 21)
- God displayed his power over the enemy. The enemy was no more. (vs. 22-24)
- What was once overwhelming became a place of abundant provision. (vs. 25)
- The display of God’s power to rescue unleashed a fountain of joy and praise among the people. (vs. 26-28)
- Onlookers feared the Lord after seeing the display of God’s power. (vs. 29) (Side note: This is important. It’s not just the “they lived happily ever after.” In the middle of crisis, we can be encouraged knowing that God is up to something glorious. He wants even onlookers (those who know us and observe our life) to be impacted by what he’s like as we look to him for help. Our struggles are about so much more than us. There’s something bigger going on when we go through hard things. Our hard times can be a stage on which God reveals his glory to both human and spiritual beings.)
Here’s what I get out of the story. God didn’t EXPECT Jehoshaphat to be “Super-Jehoshaphat.” Nor did God WANT Jehoshaphat to be “Super-Jehoshaphat.” God liked Jehoshaphat’s weakness and his lack of resources. In fact, he was at his best when he seemed to be weakest. God is okay with overwhelming circumstances because God, then, get’s to be seen as “Super-God.”
And that's a relief for a man like me!