Trusting The Lord In Difficult Times
By Rich Carmicheal
Scripture reading: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30
Life can bring us great challenges and difficulties, some of which can seem almost unbearable. Perhaps you are even now facing a significant trial such as sickness, the death of a loved one, financial hardship, a broken relationship, an injustice, persecution, loneliness, emotional problems, a wayward child, unemployment…. If so, I ask you to consider with me some of the ways that you can receive help and peace from the Lord during this trying time. In particular, I encourage you to consider the example in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, as he faced an overwhelming enemy and found great victory by turning to the Lord and trusting in Him.
Jehoshaphat’s enemy was a vast army that had come to make war against him. Perhaps, in light of your own experience with trials, you can readily identify with Jehoshaphat’s great concern over this impending threat – he was alarmed (v. 3), apparently afraid and discouraged (vv. 15, 17), and realized that he had no power to face this vast army and he did not know what to do (v. 12).
Turn Your Focus to the Lord
Although Jehoshaphat did not know how to face this great threat, he did know that his only hope was to turn to the Lord for help. He "resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah" (v. 3). He sought the Lord and prayed: "…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You" (v. 12). He knew that even though he was powerless over the enemy, the Lord is awesome in power: "O Lord…are You not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You" (v. 6).
Friend, whereas you and I may lack the knowledge, understanding, endurance, love, power and many other characteristics necessary to overcome the troubles of life, our Lord does not. He is more than able to see us through any difficulty. Consider just a few of His wonderful attributes:
He cares about us and is full of compassion toward us – "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7); "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning…" (Lam. 3:22-23); "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him" (Nah. 1:7).
He knows us and works to do what is best for us – "O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways…You hem me in – behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me" (Psa. 139:1-5); "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…" (Rom. 8:28).
He is all-powerful and able to help us – "Ah, Sovereign Lord…Nothing is too hard for You" (Jer. 32:17); He is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20).
He is trustworthy and faithful to help us – "…great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him’" (Lam. 3:23-24); "…the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one" (2 Thess. 3:3).
He is always with us – "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psa. 46:1); "…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’" (Heb. 13:5).
The Lord alone is our rock, our salvation and our fortress, and we can "trust in Him at all times" (Psa. 62:6-8). May He arise, and may His enemies be scattered (Psa. 68:1).
See the Word of the Lord
As Jehoshaphat began to seek the Lord, a turning point came as the Lord shared a special word with him and the people. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel and he declared to the king and to the people: "This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them…. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out and face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you’" (vv. 14-17).
In response to this special word from the Lord, "Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites …stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel..." (vv. 18-19). The king also encouraged the people to place their confidence in the Lord and His word to them: "Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful" (v. 20).
Something very special happens in our lives when the Lord shares His Word with us in the midst of great difficulty. As we fellowship with Him through His Word during these trying times, He is gracious to allow His promises to us to penetrate deeply into our hearts and minds and bring us encouragement, strength, peace, comfort and hope. For example, how many of us have been greatly helped in times of trouble by passages such as these:
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psa. 23).
"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s" (Psa. 103:2-5).
"…The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isa. 40:28-31).
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Isa. 41:10).
"Be still and know that I am God" (Psa. 46:10).
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Prov. 3:5-6).
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me" (John 14:1).
"…My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).
"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psa. 34:17-18).
"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber…He will watch over your life…" (Psa. 121:2-8).
"Praise be to…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…" (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
"But You are a shield around me, O Lord, my Glorious One, who lifts up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me" (Psa. 3:3-5).
"But I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies…" (Psa. 31:14-15).
"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart" (Psa. 91:4).
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…" (Isa. 43:2).
Friend, whenever you find yourself in great difficulty, allow the Lord to minister to you through His Word. Allow Him through His Word to remind you of His deep love, His awesome power and His wonderful promises toward you. Let that Word penetrate your life and deepen your confidence in Him. Find the extraordinary help that comes as He speaks to you through His Word.
Be Obedient to the Lord
Although the Lord promised to fight the battle for Jehoshaphat and his people and to deliver them from this vast army, He nevertheless expected some steps of obedience from them. They were to march down against this army and take up their positions against the enemy and stand firm (vv. 16-17). The Lord promised them that as they followed these instructions, they would see Him deliver them from their enemy (v. 17).
One important question to ask yourself in the midst of trouble is if there is anything the Lord is asking you to do. Is He asking you to repent of some ongoing sin? To confess sin to someone? To make restitution? Swallow your pride? Let go of hatred, jealousy and envy? Forgive someone who has wronged you? Ask for someone’s forgiveness whom you have wronged? Seek counseling? Become more honest with Him and others? Stop worrying? Be more careful with your words? Take more time to listen to others? Work harder? Work less? Practice more generosity? Be content with less? Spend more time with others? Spend more time with Him and His Word? Intercede more faithfully for others? There is great truth in these words of an old hymn, "Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."
"Blessed…are those who hear the word of God and obey it" (Luke 11:28).
Offer Praise and Thanks to the Lord
The story of Jehoshaphat also points out the importance of the praise and thanksgiving we offer to the Lord. For example, Jehoshaphat’s prayer before the assembly is filled with praise to the Lord (vv. 5ff). Also, Jehoshaphat and the people responded to the Lord’s message to them by falling down before Him and worshiping Him (v. 18). The Levites responded to this message by standing and praising Him with very loud voice (v. 19). As the people marched out to face the enemy, men appointed by Jehoshaphat went before the people "to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendor of His holiness…saying, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever’" (v. 21). It was as they began to sing and praise that the Lord set the ambushes against the enemy (v. 22). And following the great deliverance the Lord provided, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem, led by Jehoshaphat, "…returned joyfully...for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lutes and trumpets" (vv. 27-28).
Even before the Lord begins to help us with our troubles, we can begin to praise and thank Him for His faithfulness to help those who call out to Him. We should continue to praise and thank Him as He begins to work, and rejoice even more once He brings us through our time of trouble. "…I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God" (Psa. 59:16-17). As we delight ourselves in Him, He gives us the desires of our hearts (Psa. 37:4). "Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song" (Psa. 28:6-7).
Receive Peace and Rest from the Lord
This episode in Jehoshaphat’s life ends with these words, "And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side" (v. 30). What was true in the physical sense for Jehoshaphat’s kingdom, can also be true in a spiritual sense in our lives. The Lord is One who is able to deliver us from our enemies and grant us peace and rest: "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). As we draw near to the Lord, we can let go of anxiety and receive peace from God which transcends understanding and which guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:5-7). The Lord’s presence, peace and rest are so wonderful they sustain us through even the most difficult trials. After all, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). We can rest assured "…that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39).
"The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? …Though an army beseige me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident…. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of You, ‘Seek His face!’ Your face, O Lord, I will seek…. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Psa. 27:1-14).