Shortly after I graduated college, I began to experience panic attacks. If you’ve never had them, count your blessings; if you’ve suffered from them, my sincerest sympathies. When one occurs, your heart races, you can’t catch your breath, and you feel as if you’re going to die or go insane, or perhaps both.
The psalmist accurately captured the overwhelming sense of such fear: “I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold. I have gone down to the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me” (Ps 69:3).
As I began to unravel why I was beset by these episodes, I realized that what seemed to be triggering the terror was a deep anxiety over the future, a feeling that I didn’t at all know (and wasn’t in the least control of) how the coming days, weeks and months would unfold. By the grace of God, I learned to counter the attacks through prayer, Scripture and some commonsense strategies.
But recently, those old worrying sensations stole over me as I sat at my kitchen table, buried in emails, holding on the phone for a plumber and mulling the morning’s sobering news headlines.
After I’d hung up from the call, weeks of global crisis and ongoing suffering closer to home got the better of me: a tear dropped onto my lashes, followed by another, and soon I was weeping.
“Please, Jesus,” I whispered. “Everything looks so dark, and I do not see the way ahead.”
A quiet reply stirred in my heart: “You don’t need to see the way. You only need to see Me.”
The gentle rebuke calmed me, and in the days since, I’ve started to reflect more on just how much I actually trust the Lord, and to what extent I believe that his plan is the better and the only one, in the scope of eternity. So often my surrender to the divine will is more of a negotiated treaty, with numerous conditions. Quite honestly, I want Jesus, but on my terms.
Yet qualifiers and clauses don’t hold up when you’re faced with the impossible, and no one knew that better than Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.
As a ruler, he was vigorous and resourceful; he enacted spiritual reforms to eliminate idolatry (2 Chron 17:3-4, 6) and kickstarted business in the kingdom, building “strongholds and store cities in Judah” and carrying out “many works” (2 Chron 17:12, 13).
Given his energy and initiative — and the more than 1 million soldiers he could muster — you might think he wouldn’t be completely thrown by the threat of invasion. However, advised that “the Moabites, the Ammonites and with them some Meunites” had amassed themselves against him, he was “frightened” (2 Chron 20:1, 3).
In response, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast, gathered the people and then led them in one of the most humble and heartfelt prayers in Scripture: “We are powerless before this vast multitude that is coming against us. We ourselves do not know what to do, so our eyes are turned toward you” (2 Chron 20:12).
King though he was, Jehoshaphat didn’t hesitate to admit this enemy utterly blocked his royal vision. In looking to the Lord, though, he saw the path forward more clearly than he himself could have imagined. The spirit of the Lord, speaking through Jahaziel, assured Jehoshaphat that he was on the right track: “The Lord says to you: Do not fear or be dismayed at the sight of this vast multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (2 Chron 20:15).
Jehoshaphat obeyed, and appointed a chorus of people to praise and worship the Lord as the army marched forth. As they lifted their voices, “the Lord laid an ambush” against the enemy troops, and “each helped destroy the other” (2 Chron 20:22, 23). So complete was the triumph that it took Judah “three days to gather the spoils” (2 Chron 20:25).
Afterwards, the people assembled in the Valley of Berakah, the name of which means “blessing” in Hebrew. They returned in exultation to Jerusalem, “for the Lord had given them joy over their enemies” (2 Chron 20:27) — and he who himself is the Way (Jn 14:6) will do the same for us, if only we will fix our eyes on him alone.
Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast and producer of the Arise podcast. Follow her on Twitter at @Gina JesseReina.
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