There are biblical characters that are always mentioned in Sunday School class and sermons. Characters that we are familiar with and could place in the grand biblical narrative. Jehoshaphat isn't one of them. While his life was important he somehow didn't make the "well-known" list. You might have heard his name exclaimed by Josephine March or Rachel Lynde - but apart from 19th century swears -we are not too familiar with his story.
Jehoshaphat was once the King of Judah and found himself under attack from several armies. He cried out to God for help and God responded by saying, "But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord's victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!" Jehoshaphat trusted the words of God and obeyed the Lord. He sent out his army to the battlefield to take its positions and ahead of the army Jehoshaphat also sent out singers singing, "Give thanks to the Lord; his love endures forever."
At the very moment that the singers began to sing, God caused the opposing armies to fight among themselves. Once the army of Judah arrived at their battle positions all they saw were their opponents dead bodies strewn throughout the field. God dealt with everything before they even arrived. It was just as God had said, "But you will not need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord's victory."
A month ago I arrived at church with a lot of questions on my mind. We seemed to have come to a crossroads where many issues needed to be decided at the same time - big life decisions about finances, automobiles, homeschooling, housing, medical issues, not to mention the usual navigation of relationships and parenting.
Discussing these issues was filling every moment my husband and I had together - either alone or with kids. My "prayer times" had become verbal processing and question asking times. There was no space for anything other than these questions and decisions.
Throughout the day I would find myself on a thought loop trying to figure it all out and sort through for the best solution. But my efforts were bringing no consolation, just more and more questions and uncertainty about what to do. The more I asked about these big issues, the more questions were created, the more frantic I felt, and the more unable to solve our problems I remained.
And here I was, questions and all, at church listening to a sermon about a King of Judah who cried out to God in distress about real life issues and God's reply was that he will fight for him, he will do everything, he will take care of the problem on his own.
I listened to the story about God's faithfulness and might and I was struck by a Spirit inspired thought. What if we sang instead of asking? What if we took an hour a day, a day a week, a week a month, a month a year and worshiped instead of asking? What if we were people who were so sure of who was fighting for us that we stopped asking and sang, prayed out God's character, spoke out a verse and let the questions rest? What would my life look like? How would this change me?
You see, God isn't upset with Jehoshaphat for asking. It is not wrong to ask. It is the right thing to ask God who is the giver of wisdom. But maybe I already had my answer. Maybe my answer is that God will fight for my family. Maybe my looping questions and trying to sort out everything on my own was the same as trying to fight on my own. Maybe I needed to drop the questions and pick up a song that exalted God. Maybe I needed to fast from asking.
The first question of the Westminster Catechism is "What is the chief end of man?" Their theological document begins with the question - what is the point of a person's life? The answer provided to this question is : "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
To Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever.
The chief end of man is not figuring out the future or making sure everything is sorted out and making sure the ducks are in a row. The chief end of man, our most important purpose, is to worship God and enjoy Him forever.
I had been spending the last month, year, or life time trying to get things out of God. Trying to figure out the right wording for my prayers, the right earnestness in my heart to manipulate God into providing with the answers. I have spent time trying to get reasons, trying to get healing, trying to predict the future. But what does it mean to Enjoy Him Forever? What does it mean to Enjoy God?
The past few weeks I have been trying to fast from asking. I have been trying to take a break from all the questions even though they seem so important. Every time the looping questions arise in my heart I have been learning to stop and sing - a hymn, a modern song, a campfire song, a Sunday school song, a song I made up- anything and everything that would count as "worship music". I am trying to go out ahead of the army, confident in the one who is fighting the battle for me.
It has not been easy. God has been prying the questions out of my cold dead hands but what is truer experience of God than dying to one's self.
I have been desperate to ask, desperate to pick the questions back up and grab hold of my perceived control of my future. But I have been letting go of the lie that God might forget if I don't continually ask. I have been learning to enjoy the truth that God knows about my questions and does not need to be reminded. That he knows about my future and is still in charge then as he is now. Trusting that he has provided his answer for He has provided himself.
When was the last time you fasted from asking? When was the last time you decided to lay down those questions and pick up a song in your heart instead or perhaps spoke out a list of God's names? When was the last time you took an hour or a day or a week to glorify God and enjoy him with no other agenda, no other questions, not trying to get something from him? When was the last time you fasted from asking the hard questions, fasted from the cynicism, fasted from trying to sort things out by yourself? When was the last time you trusted that God is aware of what is going on in your life and knows it so intimately that you need not even ask?
If you answer is "never" or "not in a long time" - you are not alone. My answer was the same and I have a feeling that others would agree.
I now see it is a much more peaceful way to live. The days are not so long, the evenings much more restful, my own heart lifted out of discouragement and concern, restlessness and fear. There is space to enjoy time together with my spouse instead of constantly trying to sort out the options. I am more present with my children. I am more present in my reality rather than lost to the future.
It is the better way to live and I believe it is teaching me more about God than I have known before. I am learning about God's character because I am speaking it out and singing about it throughout the day. I spend much less time thinking about myself and my problems and instead focus on the one who is fighting for me. And I am learning how to enjoy God.
As for all the big life decisions? The specific answers haven't come yet and our life issues have not been immediately solved. Glorifying God and enjoying him forever wasn't and isn't a magical way to get God to do what we want. But this fasting returns and reorientates our hearts to what we were made to do. When we stop trying to be in charge, there is space for us to remember who God is. It reminds us of our need for Him and his faithfulness to fulfill and sustain us. It reminds us of his ability to care for us, to fight for us, to watch over our lives now and in the future. It reminds us that our chief reason for existence is To Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever. And, I am learning, it is a beautiful and much better way to live.