What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

A lesson from an ancient king

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

A lesson from an ancient king

Above: An apartment building damaged during a Russian missile strike in Kyiv during the early hours of Dec. 13.

Things are not what they appear to be. In this information age, when the horrors of foreign wars are brought into our living rooms; when political wrangling is often vicious and our moral freefall is accelerated by social media; when justice is often aborted by political considerations—where do we turn? 

Add to that our personal anxiety brought about by the destructive pressures on our family, failing health, or economic uncertainty. Where do we look for help?

An ancient king named Jehoshaphat has an answer for us. When faced with a coalition of three different armies marching in lockstep to exterminate him and the people of Judah, he prayed a prayer that should often be on our lips: “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” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

When we feel helpless, when one distressing headline after another brings bad news, we have somewhere we can look. We must turn our attention from that which is visible to Him who is invisible. We must turn our attention to God—the God who does not wait for the news but makes the news.

But how do we turn our attention to Him?

Jehoshaphat began by bringing his people together for prayer and fasting: “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast … to seek help from the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3–4). If we as God’s people are desperate, that might be exactly where God wants us—desperate enough to fast both individually and collectively. 

If we are not a repentant church, we cannot withstand our present cultural headwinds. Nor can we expect the favor of God as we march into our troubled future. We must admit our helplessness and our desperation for the Lord.

Jehoshaphat knew this critical fact—that faith in God is fueled by praise to God. He gathered his people together to remind them of the promises of God, and then he called for the choir, the temple’s singers, to lead the assembly in praise. “And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever’” (2 Chronicles 20:21). Incredibly, the army followed behind the choir!

 “And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed” (2 Chronicles 20:22). In this instance, they did not have to fight; God did the fighting and the people of Israel did the praising. The very visible army was defeated by a very invisible Warrior who fought for Israel. When God took Israel’s side, everything changed.

Of course, we should not assume that if we look to God, He will totally route our political or cultural enemies; even Joshua had to fight in order to claim the land God had given to the Israelites. In the New Testament, we learn the church is often not victorious over political powers or over its enemies in the culture. But the principle is always the same: If we are to maintain our emotional and spiritual stability in a world that appears to be tearing apart, we must glance at what is seen, and joyfully gaze at the One who is unseen.

Here is a challenge: What if we began to spend as much time focusing our attention on God as we do the news, perusing social media, and otherwise becoming consumed with our personal anxieties? What if we obeyed Paul’s admonition, “So we do not lose heart. … For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

So, take your hymnal off the shelf and sing those glorious songs that direct our hearts Godward. Let us learn from Jehoshaphat that those who sing praise to the Lord win victories. And let praise replace panic, and faith replace fear.

No matter how dire our situation appears to be, let me assure you that believers around the world are facing crises that are much more desperate. Some are paying for their faith with their livelihoods while others are paying with their lives. 

How do they remain faithful to God? They believe in another world. And they believe that beyond the headlines is a sovereign God who cares, and who is waiting for us to look to Him and His promises. “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:1–2).

When we don’t know what to do, let’s look up to God, who is waiting to help us.  ©2024 Erwin W. Lutzer

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

Erwin Lutzer is pastor emeritus of the Moody Church, in Chicago. He is an award-winning author and can be heard on the daily preaching broadcast “Running to Win.”

Photo: Oleksii Chumachenko / SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire

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