I spent half a decade feeling powerless - physically, emotionally and mentally. But those days taught me to rely on God. Day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.
I was a single parent, trying to hold life together. My adolescent daughters were struggling, as they felt disillusioned and angry at life. Escalating health problems left me with little energy to go on and some days I would literally collapse in exhaustion. I needed rest. Joy. An anchor to hold on to.
I decided to go on a personal retreat to sit with God and pore over the Word. To find encouragement and refreshment in Him. But as I sat with Scripture, encouragement never came. Reading 2 Chronicles 20, the account of Jehoshaphat facing a great army, I felt a distinct sense of dread. I read: “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 Chron 20:12).
A great horde was coming. Did that apply to me? If so, who were they? And how should I prepare?
Though the story was familiar, Jehoshaphat’s response still moved me. Instead of consulting advisors and summoning the troops, Jehoshaphat simply appealed to the Lord. He prayed and declared a fast. He didn't try to prepare. He just trusted God.
God answered his pleas, saying: "Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's.… You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf" (2 Chron 20: 15, 17).
I clung to God's words for Jehoshaphat. I needed to stand firm. I didn't need a battle plan. I just needed to keep my eyes on the Lord. This was his battle, not mine. But what was it and when would it begin?
A few weeks after I got home, an unexpected announcement put my world in a tailspin. And then soon afterwards, my arms began failing. Within a few days, I could barely use them. With post-polio, I knew this could happen at some point, but I was not prepared for this.
At first I was gripped by fear. How long could I feed and care for myself, let alone care for my children? Though the weakness ebbed and flowed from day to day, on many days I struggled to even dress myself.
I felt God had abandoned me. What was the point of faith anyway? I was tempted to turn away from God, to yank my life back, to tell him I could run it better on my own. I wanted to tell God I didn’t need him. But I knew that was a lie. There was nowhere else to go. Only he had the words of life. I did need him. Desperately.
I opened the Bible to 2 Chronicles 20 again and begged the Lord for help.
Rereading the Chronicles passage, I was startled. How had I missed it? I had been so overwhelmed by the beginning that I had not focused on the entire passage. Instead of fighting, figuring out a battle plan, or worrying about the future, Jehoshaphat praised God. That was his part. He appointed people to sing to the Lord and praise him saying “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
“And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against [their enemies] … they all helped destroy one another…not one of them had escaped” (2 Chron 20:21-24).
Jehoshaphat did nothing but give praise and thanks to God. God fought the battle. Would praise bring about a miracle in my life? Could it be that simple?
I looked at the result in Chronicles. The Israelites completely destroyed their enemies. They took home more spoil than they could carry. They were filled with joy. All in the Valley of Beracah, the Valley of Blessing. And God got all the glory. His name was renowned. His faithfulness upheld.
The Israelites were just asked to thank God. That was all.
I started. “Thank you that I could dress myself this morning. Thank you that I have a faithful family and friends to help me. Thank you that nothing you do is purposeless. Thank you for…a warm shower, the Living Word, unfailing hope…”
Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts taught me the process. Counting my blessings. Naming the gifts that I often overlook as I press on through my harried days, focusing on what I lack.
Ann calls this process eucharisteo, the Greek word for thanksgiving. She notes its root word, charis meaning "grace" and its derivative, chara, meaning joy. She says "Deep chara joy is found only at the table of eucharisteo – the table of thanksgiving… Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle… it is the Greek word with a hard meaning that is harder yet to live…yet this is the only way from empty to full."
I wanted to get from empty to full, to defeat my enemies, to live without regrets. And as I saw in Scripture, the way to sure victory, to untold spoil, to the Valley of Blessing, was thanksgiving.
I wondered who the enemies were. Was it the people who had hurt me? Was it post-polio that was wasting my body away? Was it Satan, who wanted me to believe that God was not good and that the Lord was not in the very details of my life? Were my enemies discouragement, doubt and despair that were trying to persuade me that I was destined to live in endless pain?
I had no idea when the war would end. But I knew I needed to stand firm, keeping my eyes on Jesus and thanking him.
I was in that battle for years. It was harder than I imagined, but God met me in unmistakable ways. He taught me the importance of giving thanks. And gave me a deeper faith. And showed me his extravagant love. Indeed, I was given a place in the Valley of Blessing.
Through it all, I learned to keep my eyes on Christ, who had already won the victory. My part was simply to give him thanks. Day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chron 20:21).