Courage!

There is a Bible story that is worth retelling, also because hardly anyone speaks about it. It is the year 875 before Christ. Jehoshaphat has been reigning in Judah already for fifteen years when a huge army from the neighboring tribes attacked his land. It was tough because the armed forces of Judah were puny and inadequately equipped. However the king was wise. He asked for help. From God!

God – as always – intervened and He put words in the mouth of Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, who boldly uttered, “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! 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… You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.”

And sure enough, the next day, the king and his army woke up early and went out for battle! But they did something really odd. They appointed a group of men as a choir for God and dressed in holy robes put them up in front the troops and had them sing “Give Thanks to the Lord, His love is everlasting”!!!

Just imagine the scene. God had told King Jehoshaphat to do something pretty radical. Like in the last battle in Iraq, to send the Marine band out to meet the army of Saddam Hussein!! However, apparently, this is God’s way of winning battles! In fact, something inexplicable happened to the enemy.

Hearing the music and the singing, the army on the other side panicked and started fighting between themselves! They massacred themselves without Judah even having to let off one single arrow! “As Judah came up over the rise, looking into the wilderness for the horde of barbarians, they looked on a killing field of dead bodies–not a living soul among them.” Read it. 2 Chronicles 20.

I always find this story very enlightening because God is suggesting a strategy in front of our adversaries, a strategy that works!

Let us reflect a minute. What are our enemies today? Depression? Fellow employees? Cancer? Divorce? Rebellious children? Lost job? Failing business? Low grades?

God is basically telling us, first of all, not to let our fears paralyze us. It is vital not to believe the lie inside us that mumbles that it is useless to fight, that we are without resources. We are not! God is our ally. He always was. He always will be. He can work marvels through those who put their trust in Him.

This is why the king organized a choir to sing. He could not let the faith of his soldiers waver! Faith told him that the evil that came in his way was not a mistake out of the range of God. This attack of the enemies was just a desperate effort of God to teach his people to turn to Him and to cling to Him more. Because only in clinging to Him that we can taste real happiness.

A woman came to speak to me with a sad story of infidelity and verbal abuse of her husband. She was desperate. Depression had started creeping in. I could have pitied her and left her wallowing in self pity. But I did not. I suggested to her what Saint Paul recommends in Ephesians 6:16: “above all, take up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.”

The evil one is always throwing ‘fiery darts’ to us to make us doubt God’s faithfulness or God’s strength. Imagination is the gateway through which the devil enters. That is why it is so vital to safeguard our mind with the shield of faith. What does faith tells me? Faith tells me that God loves this woman and if He is permitting this situation in her life, it is only because he realizes that this is what she needs and, above all, that He is able to transform even this cruel violence of her husband into a source of blessing for her, him and for their children. I have seen it so many times!

She cannot afford to interiorize this problem. “In this crazy world, there’s an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they’re never separated. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning, there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the kingdom.” These are the words of Henri Nouwen, a man who dedicated all his later life trying to help people taste the love of God in their brokenness.

Saint Paul is right. “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose . . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” Romans 8:28-29.


(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.