When We Don’t Know What To Do
by Kathleen Gauthier
We all face problems in life that overwhelm us and threaten to defeat us. What do we do when we don’t know what to do?
King Jehoshaphat had a big problem. In II Chronicles 20, three of his enemies united to make war against him. When the news reached him about the large armies approaching his kingdom of Judah, Jehoshaphat was afraid. He immediately turned his attention to seek the Lord.
When we are faced with adversity, what do we do first? Do we assess our resources? Find our bootstraps and give them a strong pull? Do we seek experts for advice? Do we try to make life work? Do we try to anesthetize our pain or ignore the problem by seeking relief? Do we fall in grief and despair? Do we demand someone fix it?
Jehoshaphat sought the Lord with all his heart. He proclaimed a fast and gathered his people to seek help from the Lord. Seeking God was more important than eating. He put everything aside. He asked his people to pray with him. His prayer is recorded in II Chronicles 20: 6-12
“O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.
Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?
And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying,
‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’
And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy—
behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit.
O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
Jehoshaphat first remembered who God was and what He has done. The king of Judah recognized God’s place as King of kings. Jehoshaphat knew he was subject to God, not the other way around. He laid out his problem before God. Jehoshaphat knew he had nothing in himself to overcome his enemies. Jehoshaphat confessed his poverty, his brokenness, his powerlessness to change his circumstances. He was at the end of himself, empty before the Lord. There was nothing he could do to fix his problem. He asked for God’s help but did not demand it. Jehoshaphat kept his eyes focused on God.
Psalm 121:1 says:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.”
Where do we look when we are faced with problems we cannot solve? Do we “turn our eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face?” Do the “things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”? Or do we focus on the enemy approaching and our helplessness? Do we demand God to fix our problem, or can we admit our helplessness and keep our eyes on Him and wait?
The Spirit of the Lord spoke through Jahaziel and said, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” II Chronicles 20:15, 17.
Jehoshaphat and all Judah worshipped the Lord and praised Him with loud voices. The next day, Jehoshaphat encouraged the people to put their trust in the Lord God and they would be established, and they would succeed. The Judean king appointed people to proceed the army with praise. The people sang, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” II Chronicles 20:21. When Judah met her enemy in the wilderness, they were all dead.
Is this a formula to overcome your problems? Look to Jesus, worship and praise Him and your enemy will be slain before you reach the battleground? Please, don’t think that! There is no formula to solve your problem. No way to manipulate God to overcome and remove your trouble in life. But what can we learn from this?
We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
We can turn to the One who made us first. It’s so easy to worry. So easy to try everything else before we hit the wall and turn to the Living God. What if, instead of trying to solve our problem to manage our life, we made seeking God our first thing, our top priority? We don’t know what to do with our depression, our anxiety, our broken relationships, our uncertain future, or the deep ache in the depth of our soul. Why do we try everything else before we seek God?
We tend to be more like the Israelites right out of Egypt facing the barrier of the Red Sea. In Exodus 14 the Israelites faced another approaching enemy with no way of escape and they were full of fear. Instead of seeking God first, as Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah did, the Israelites of that time cried out to the Lord and complained to Moses, did you bring us out here to die? We were better off as slaves! Even after witnessing the miraculous way God freed them from slavery and bondage, they did not trust their God to save them.
Sadly, we can be more like the Israelites than the people of Judah. Despite all who God is and what He has done, we doubt He will help us again. We doubt His goodness. We don’t trust He is in control when all we see is our enemy on one side and obstacles on the other. We’d rather go back to the familiar slavery of sin than to trust in the freedom our Mysterious Unseen God offers.
Through Moses, God had told the people a similar message he told to Judah, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13, 14. As you may already know, God parted the Red Sea and the people walked through on dry ground. After God delivered them and drowned the Egyptians, then the people feared the Lord; believed in the Lord; and praised and worshipped the Lord. Exodus 14:31, and Exodus 15.
Let’s recap this. Both people faced overwhelming enemies they could not defeat, and they were afraid. The people of Judah first sought the Lord, making it a priority even over daily things like eating. They recognized God for who He was and what He has done in contrast to their complete helplessness and powerlessness to overcome their problem on their own. They didn’t know what to do but turned their eyes to God trusting He would do something. They offered their sacrifice of praise and God delivered them. In contrast, the people of Israel cried out to God and complained to Moses. They didn’t fully trust God, yet He delivered them. Then they believed and praised God. Their trust lasted three days. It didn’t take long for them to doubt and grumble again when there was no water. This time they didn’t even cry out to God but complained first to Moses.
It’s too easy to fall back into the rut of grumbling. Our hearts don’t trust God. We doubt. We can’t fix our lives. We don’t know what to do.
But we can turn our eyes to God. Jesus knows we have trouble and anxiety in life. In Matthew 6, Jesus lovingly says, don’t be anxious. God takes care of the flowers and the birds; He will take care of you. The world looks at approaching enemies and lack of resources and is full of anxiety and complaints. Look to our Living God! Seek first God and His kingdom before you seek the things on earth.
C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”*
Don’t know what to do?
Turn your eyes to Jesus.
*C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 278-280.