Are you in a situation where you just don’t know what to do? Maybe there are multiple directions you could take but you know none of them will lead to your desired destination and all of them contain terrain that looks impossible to navigate. In that case, we obviously look for the shortest path or the one with the least amount of risk. But what if that is NOT the path God calls us to take? What if there is quite simply, no easy way out?
These unexpected situations in life seem like they will break us. No matter which path we choose, a dream ends, a relationship gets left behind, or we put ourselves in the direct line of harm. It’s easy for others on the outside to say, “Just pray about it and choose the path God leads you to.” But what if there is no real right answer? If God is sovereign, does it really matter which path you choose? If God is sovereign over all, won’t we end up where we are supposed to be regardless?
I believe the answer to that question is both yes and no. God is indeed sovereign but we are still responsible for our own choices. If we take a running leap off a cliff, we have made a choice with a direct consequence. Some choices are like that… you choose and here’s the consequence. But others are not so black and white.
God is never surprised by our choices. He knew exactly what choice we would make long before the world began. He also knew we would tend to focus on what could go wrong rather than what could go right. Sure, some of us are risk takers but for our benefit, we are also wired for self-preservation outside of a few exceptional circumstances that we pray we never find ourselves in. But what if we did start asking what could go right more than we ask what could go wrong? How would that change our hearts? I’m guessing we would be less hesitant, more confident, less fearful, and live more boldly. Those all sound great until we ask how would it affect our faith. If we never wrestled with fear or “what if” would we really know how much we needed God? I know I wouldn’t. Faith is dependent on not knowing all the answers, belief in what is unseen.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1
I use these thoughts to remind myself doubt and hesitation can actually be FOR my benefit. Without doubt, I don’t think I would celebrate victories quite as much. Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I am not saying we SHOULD doubt God, I am only stating what is real: WE ALL DO AT TIMES. God knew we would doubt, and He uses that doubt to show His glory in victories.
Moses Had Doubts Too
Most of us are familiar with the doubt of Moses as he laid every reason before God as to why he was not qualified to do what God was calling him to do in Exodus 3 and 4. But God gently replied to each and every reason with the same answer: God is the one who equips us to do the work He calls us to. We can apply that same reasoning as we are looking at our options. Maybe we don’t think we can navigate the rocky terrain of one path or the swift current of another. But we must all choose a path as standing still is not an option and as Lot’s wife learned, longing for what’s behind us when God is leading us forward is also not the answer.
So we must choose a path and trust God to equip us for the journey. Just like Peter, whether we sink or swim is determined by our focus. Jesus called Peter to step out of his safety zone in the boat and walk with Him on the water. Was Peter capable of walking on water? Of course not. But Jesus was and as long as Peter was with Jesus, he was capable of whatever Jesus equipped him to do. However, once Peter shifted his focus from Jesus onto the circumstance of potential danger, he quickly started sinking and begged Jesus to save him. Isn’t that exactly how our journey goes? We lose focus on Him and instead focus on our circumstances until it’s so overwhelming we have no choice but to cry out, “Jesus save me.”
How many times have we felt led to do something but remained frozen in our doubts? Dare we recall a time when Jesus called us out of the boat and we shook our head no to stay where we were most comfortable? I know I have. I know other times, I stepped out of the boat only to retreat back in the second my toe touched the cold water. We don’t like the unknown and we certainly don’t like discomfort. But focusing on fear is not what we were created for.
For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control. - 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV
Maybe that is exactly the path God wants us to choose. Sometimes He calls us to be bold enough to walk in the unknown and the uncomfortable, keeping our focus on Him rather than the dangerous circumstances around us. The power he mentioned in 2 Timothy is the power we have through Him. The question is not always whether or not we will step out of the boat, but how often will we lose focus on His power and look down at our circumstances?
The Example of Jehoshaphat
This reminds me of Jehoshaphat’s story in 2 Chronicles 17-19. Jehoshaphat was a descendent of David who had become King of Judah. He was a man of God and followed His commands rather than being swayed by the evil culture around him (2 Chronicles 17:4) Therefore, God established Jehoshaphat’s control over Judah and acceptance among the people (2 Chronicles 17:5). He grew in wealth, power, and respect. We are told God brought peace to his kingdom to keep him out of war. But Jehoshaphat made an alliance with Ahab, an evil king of Israel. Jehoshaphat thought He needed to take action to secure Israel as an ally in order to avoid an attack from Israel rather than trusting in God’s protection. (Does this remind you of another person who was tempted to take circumstances into their own hands, doubting God’s word? Think Genesis 3 for a moment.)
That was not necessary, however, as God had already brought peace and protection to Judah. As a result of this alliance and Ahab’s failure to listen to the true prophet of God, Jehoshaphat went to war with Ahab in a battle God warned against. Ahab died in battle as a result and although God was angry with Jehoshaphat for taking matters into his own hands and joining Ahab in battle, he showed him mercy due to his past history of following God’s commands. Jehoshaphat had gained the favor of God by sending teachers and priests throughout Judah to teach the Word of God. He acted with integrity and expected the people of Judah to do the same. He was an honorable leader, respected by the people.
When Jehoshaphat learned Judah was in an unexpected situation, an eminent attack from those God had previously commanded the Israelites to spare, he wasn’t sure what to do. He had united Judah under the truth of God and now it was time to put His faith into practice.
Jehoshaphat relied on the truth of God’s power and past faithfulness to sustain him during this time.
He didn’t pretend he had an answer. He didn’t assemble an army in arrogance, assuming God would allow him to win against the odds. Instead, he did what we should all do in an unexpected situation. Jehoshaphat relied on the truth of God’s power and past faithfulness to sustain him during this time.
"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 ESV
Jehoshaphat humbled himself before God in front of his people as their leader stating, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” God had a plan, though, just as He always does. He informed Jehoshaphat he would not have to fight this battle as the battle belonged to the LORD. All they had to do was show up, stand firm in their faith, and watch God work
"Thus says the LORD to you, 'Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's." - 2 Chronicles 20:15 ESV
Perhaps we are using resources and energy to fight a battle that is not ours to fight. Friends, whatever unexpected situation you find yourself in I pray you would look up as Jehoshaphat did and follow God. Not our will but yours, Lord. Trust in the One who is sovereign over all, including the spiritual battles we are unable to fully see with our human eyes. Our only job is to “stand firm, hold our position (of faith), and see the salvation of the LORD on our behalf” (2 Chronicles 20:17).
I encourage you to stand up, straighten your crown, and walk forward confidently grounded in the truth of God’s word.
P.S. Don’t forget to look up!
Feature Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash
- Your Story is His Story
- Unexpected Gifts of Pain and Suffering
- Why We Must Spring Forward and Never Fall Back
- A Galentine’s Celebration
- God’s Tender Healing in Unexpected Brokenness
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