When you’re in the wilderness, you can’t just roll over and play dead. (Even though that’s exactly what you want to do- stay in bed with the covers up and the curtains shut tight!)
You just can’t. Because if you do…you’ll be stuck in the wilderness for a very long time.
Trust me. I know…because in my wilderness season, escape and self-pity were my faithful friends for a good long while. And they didn’t serve me well.
So if this is you…if this is where you are… I get it. I’m there with you! (You’re not alone!)
But if you’re stuck in your wilderness like I was, wallowing in self-pity, I have a very important message for you.
You have to fight, or you will die.
I thank God every day that He didn’t allow me to die in my wilderness. He didn’t allow the enemy of my soul to destroy me in my weakened, vulnerable state. And He didn’t give up on me while I wallowed in my misery, refusing to pick up my sword and fight.
Last July, I think I was at the lowest point of this wilderness journey. I couldn’t write. I could barely pray. I had no words. I felt that my soul had completely dried up and that it might crack into pieces at any moment.
That moment happened. I was in Yellowstone National Park with my husband. We were on our pastoral “getaway” for the refreshing of our mind, body and spirit.
But (just in case you haven’t put two and two together yet), it was Yellowstone National Park, in July.
The height of tourist season.
It was about as restful as rush hour in downtown Hong Kong. A steady stream of tourists with National Geographic-sized camera lenses in hand, and hourly traffic jams due to buffalo sightings. (How many pictures do you need of buffalo??)
And it rained. Constantly.
That fateful evening, we were driving through a particularly torrential downpour after a failed attempt to cook steaks on our Coleman stove under the meager shelter of a tree (did I mention that we were tenting?). We had given up and were headed into town to find something to eat and wait out the storm.
It was in this moment that I broke down. I started talking, and that was it. The dam burst, and the pieces of my broken heart spilled out into the car and onto the lap of my dear husband. All of the pain that I had been stuffing inside for over a year finally found its way out of my heart and filled every inch of our Toyota Camry. Flying down the highway, windshield wipers going a mile a minute, my soul cracked wide open.
It was the moment that God had been waiting for. For me to fall apart, so He could put me back together.
It was also the moment that I realized this one truth, and it changed everything:
I can’t fight this battle alone.
I was dying because I had thought all along that it was up to me- that I had to figure this thing out, or die trying.
But it’s so much bigger than me.
So in that moment, I laid my weapons down at the feet of Jesus. I asked Him to help me fight this battle. I told Him, “I give up. I can’t face this thing alone. I’m dying, and I need Your help.”
Huh…that almost sounds like a Bible story.
In 2 Chronicles 20, three massive armies were joining together to take out the nation of Judah, and Judah had NO HOPE of a win. King Jehoshaphat’s army was simply no match for these guys. So what did Jehoshaphat do?
Shaken, Jehoshaphat prayed. He went to God for help and ordered a nationwide fast. The country of Judah united in seeking God’s help—they came from all the cities of Judah to pray to God.
2 Chronicles 20:3-4, MSG
And King J prayed. He threw himself on the ground, along with the whole nation of Judah (verse 13). He reminded God of how BIG He was, how small they were, and that their only hope was in Him. In verse 12, Jehoshaphat tells God,
“We’re helpless before this vandal horde ready to attack us. We don’t know what to do; we’re looking to You.”
And guess what.
God shows up.
He speaks to His people through one of the worship leaders, Jahaziel, with this word (I love it!):
He said, “Attention everyone—all of you from out of town, all you from Jerusalem, and you King Jehoshaphat—God’s word: Don’t be afraid; don’t pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God’s war, not yours. Tomorrow you’ll go after them; see, they’re already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you’ll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You won’t have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm, Judah and Jerusalem, and watch God’s saving work for you take shape. Don’t be afraid, don’t waver. March out boldly tomorrow—God is with you.”
2 Chronicles 20:15-17, MSG
And then, here’s the key. They listened to Jahaziel- God’s mouthpiece. They obeyed God’s voice. And the result? Read for yourself:
Then Jehoshaphat knelt down, bowing with his face to the ground. All Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping God. The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs!
They were up early in the morning, ready to march into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they were leaving, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, “Listen Judah and Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! Believe firmly in God, your God, and your lives will be firm! Believe in your prophets and you’ll come out on top!”
After talking it over with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed a choir for God; dressed in holy robes, they were to march ahead of the troops, singing,
Give thanks to God,
His love never quits.
As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead. The Ammonites and Moabites mistakenly attacked those from Mount Seir and massacred them. Then, further confused, they went at each other, and all ended up killed.
As Judah came up over the rise, looking into the wilderness for the horde of barbarians, they looked on a killing field of dead bodies—not a living soul among them.
When Jehoshaphat and his people came to carry off the plunder they found more loot than they could carry off—equipment, clothing, valuables. It took three days to cart it away! On the fourth day they came together at the Valley of Blessing (Beracah) and blessed God (that’s how it got the name, Valley of Blessing).
Jehoshaphat then led all the men of Judah and Jerusalem back to Jerusalem—an exuberant parade. God had given them joyful relief from their enemies! They entered Jerusalem and came to The Temple of God with all the instruments of the band playing.
When the surrounding kingdoms got word that God had fought Israel’s enemies, the fear of God descended on them. Jehoshaphat heard no more from them; as long as Jehoshaphat reigned, peace reigned.
2 Chronicles 20:18-30, MSG
Their strategy? Prayer. Obedience. Worship.
The result? Victory. Blessing. Peace.
Here’s my “How to Fight Well” strategy based on Jehoshaphat’s story:
~How to Fight Well~
1. Fall on your face before God.
Humble yourself before Him. Repent. Search your heart. Focus on God’s face, not your enemies’ threat. (“We don’t know what to do; we’re looking to You.”)
2. Listen for His voice.
Ask God to speak! Read His Word. Get quiet and listen for His still, small voice. Seek the wise counsel of your mentors and spiritual leaders (Who is your Jahaziel?).
3. Act on it!
Obey immediately. Look back to our story- after God spoke, all of Judah praised Him, then they got up early in the morning to act on God’s orders.
Jehoshaphat sent the choir out ahead of the troops.
Worship is our warfare! Worship is the key that unlocks God’s power in you and confuses the enemy.
5. Praise God and plunder the enemy!
Praise God for the victory that HE won for us, and loot the enemy. The armies that came against Judah planned on destroying Judah and stripping the nation of its wealth, but God turned it against them! Instead, it took Jehoshaphat’s men three days to carry off the plunder! When we fight GOD’s way, He turns the enemy’s plan against him, and WE get to loot the enemy of his bounty! Not only does he not rob us, but we get to plunder him of all the stolen goods he’s been carrying around from past victories.
So, friends- I know that fighting in the wilderness is TOUGH STUFF. I’m so with you there. But if we take these truths with us into battle, we WILL win!
We win…and it’s not even close.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/91994044@N00/22163297493″>Armour and helmet</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>