What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do


Have you ever had a pressing situation and you didn’t know what to do? You needed an answer but there was no angelic visitation, no supernatural manifestation, no time for a sabbatical retreat, but you must decide and act soon.

In 2 Chronicles 20 there is the story of a king who faced such a dilemma. A formidable enemy was rapidly advancing to invade King Jehoshaphat’s nation. As the massive army marched towards him, Jehoshaphat fearfully acknowledged that he had no strategy and no means to defeat the enemy. He didn’t have time to seek allies or wait for circumstances to work out. In a short time, the enemy would be upon him.

Jehoshaphat’s story begins with confusion but ends in conquest because he learned what to do when he didn’t know what to do! We can apply the lessons Jehoshaphat learned to every crisis we encounter. I encourage you to read the whole account. For the sake of time, I will highlight the important points and verses.

First, Jehoshaphat receives a very bad report.

2 Chronicles 20:2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar.”

Have you received a bad report? Did the doctor say your disease is terminal? Are you being sued for divorce or battling for the custody of your children? Are you facing financial ruin? Did the pediatrician tell you that your precious little baby will never be normal?

Perhaps you grew up in a negative environment where you constantly heard “bad reports” from parents who declared, “I’m sorry you were ever born!” or “You are so stupid. You will never amount to anything!”

Every one of us will face or is presently facing, overwhelming difficulties in life. It is not a question of “if”, but “when”. At some point, everyone will be confronted with a “bad report”, grief, pain, broken relationships, sin, or persecution. Some of these may come at us with such fury and intensity that we wonder how we will ever survive.

This happens because we live in a fallen world that is marked by the effects of man’s sin. We struggle with our own sin and we suffer the consequences of other’s sin. As a result, we experience heartache and pain. We witness natural disasters, riots, and staggering loss. Injustice, inhumanity, and falsehood seem to dominate. Discord and trouble are commonplace. The problems we face will either defeat us or develop us, depending on how we respond to them.

Jehoshaphat was a king who was obedient to God’s Word. When Jehoshaphat heard that the enemy surrounded him, he had no adequate defense and no escape plan. He didn’t know what to do, so he looked toward God and prayed. He humbly admitted his dependence on God and asked God to come to his defense.

2 Chronicles 20:12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? 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.”

So, how does Jehoshaphat’s situation compare to yours? What great horde is coming against you? When you are doing your best to live for God, ordering your life by His Word—that is when Satan and his demonic horde launch their fiercest attacks.

You may think your “great horde” is some situation or a person who is making your life miserable. However, your enemy is not people rising up against you. Your real foes are only disguised in “flesh and blood”. And as long as you perceive your battle to be on a human level you will continue to be terrorized by the real enemy. Behind every “great horde” and every “bad report” there are spiritual causes. You may not know what to do, but like Jehoshaphat, you better get your eyes on the Lord; otherwise, you will never know what to do, and you will be defeated.

Ephesians 6:10-12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Satan and his demonic horde are the controlling power behind the trial you are facing. Their strategy is similar to the great horde Jehoshaphat faced (kill, steal, and destroy John 10:10). You must face a spiritual enemy with spiritual strategies that come from the Lord.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

The first thing to do when you don’t know what to do is to get your eyes on the Lord and seek His face with prayer. This is paramount! Don’t make a move until you have done this. Like Jehoshaphat, you may want to fast until you hear from God. You can also ask others to pray and fast with you.

2 Chronicles 20:3-4 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.

At first, Jehoshaphat was afraid. The natural response to facing adversity is to experience a sense of fear (What should I do?!!!).

There are three types of fear: prudent, godly, and sinful. Prudent fear is a rational fear which keeps one from danger.

Proverbs 22:3-4 The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.

The prudent man as seen in verse 3 avoids danger when he sees it, rather than continuing headlong into it. This type of fear saves his life.

Godly fear is seen in verse 4. The fear of the Lord is manifested by our thoughts, words, and actions aligning themselves with the Word of God and His commands. The reward of godly fear, according to verse 4, is riches and honor and life.

Sinful fear, on the other hand, is fear that motivates us away from Biblical thinking, speaking, and behaving. We react according to our feelings and it leads to defeat.

Therefore, when we experience fear due to facing adversity, it is time to focus on God and seek instructions from Him.

To focus on God and hear from Him, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. The fast was an act of national self-humiliation, self-examination, and mourning before the Lord. By fasting from bodily food, they focused their thoughts upon the Lord, repented of their sin, and prepared themselves to hear God.

Likewise, when trials arise, we need to spend time focusing upon God and repenting of anything that God reveals to us. Then He will listen to us and act on our behalf.

Psalm 66:16-19 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

When trouble comes, there’s no better place to be than in prayer. We need to bring our troubles, our problems, and our anxieties to God.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

When anything seems insurmountable, we need to admit that we don't know what to do and go to the One who does know what to do. The Lord may not answer us in the way we want him to, but He will answer us in the way we need Him to. When He answers, the question becomes, “Will we obey what He tells us to do?”

I’m serious. Many times God gives us a simple answer to our prayer. It may come directly to our spirit, or through His Word, or from a sermon, or some other way, and we ignore it because it seems too simple or it is not what we want to do. So then our problem is not that we don’t know what to do, but that we don’t want to do what the Lord wants us to do.

For example, God answered Jehoshaphat’s prayer. God told Jehoshaphat not to run and not to fight, but to stand and praise the Lord! Then He would see the salvation of the Lord. That is probably not the answer he expected. It sounded foolish. Would He do it? Would you if you had a vast army coming towards you? Most of us would surrender and seek the best terms we could get from them.

Doing nothing other than standing and praising God is the most unnatural thing to do when facing an army or any trial. We are afraid and we want to escape. We don’t like this situation so we don’t feel like praising God and giving thanks in all circumstances. Besides, we don’t see how standing and praising God will accomplish anything.

But remember, behind the trial is a great horde of demonic hosts. Praise and worship unto the Lord defeats them. They can’t stand it. It drives them crazy.

For example, 2 Chronicles 20:20-23 And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “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 the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Jehoshaphat didn’t just believe God’s promise, he told everyone else to believe it, and then he acted upon his belief. He appointed unarmed singers in holy attire to march in front toward the enemy, singing to God and praising Him.

Notice that when they “began to sing”, not before and not after, that God confused the enemies so that they turned and killed each other.

It’s only when we respond to God’s anointed Word in our own lives that we’ll see the victory that He has promised us. The moment we begin to obey God is the moment God begins to fulfill His promise.

God told Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:17 “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

We have to first take our stand before we can withstand the enemy. The hardest thing to do is not run nor fight back. God told Jehoshaphat to stand, hold your position, and watch.

The only foundation worth standing on is the Word of God. Write down Bible verses that promise what God will do if we stand. Then we must lay aside anything else that distracts us from the work of withstanding (persevering) and obeying.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

If we are going to see the salvation of the LORD, we have to choose what we look on. Sometimes that may require deleting apps on our phone or disconnecting the TV. Our eyes are the windows to our soul. In other words, if you can’t hear the LORD telling you what to do, it might be because you are not looking at Him. If we repent, look upon Jesus, stand on His Word, hold our position, and watch, we will see the salvation of the LORD.

2 Chronicles 20:15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: 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.

Don’t forget there are demons at war with us behind what we are facing. We are not to fear what we can see, nor are we to fear the demons we can’t see. We are to fear the Lord. Because this battle against Satan is the LORD’s battle, we can trust that standing, holding our position until the battle is over, and watching are enough. We are small, but we are not insignificant. Our calling is to obey, not to orchestrate the outcome.

Whatever our enemy looks like, however big and insurmountable it seems, victory will come. It may not be soon; it may not be in the form we wish, but God will deliver.

In the meantime, our testimony during the trial will lead others to the LORD. Our praise will witness to others as we proclaim, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you, Lord! O, Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

This account about Jehoshaphat also provides an illustration of salvation. We need to realize that we are hopelessly lost and cannot do anything to save ourselves. God does it all. Even saving faith is the gift of God, so that we cannot boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.

Saving faith is not mental assent, where we say, “I believe” but don’t act on it. Satan and his hosts believe and they tremble in fear. Instead of acting obediently to what they know, they rebel and do what they want, which is what most people do. Most people are not saved.

Faith without works is a dead faith. It cannot save us from damnation. Faith without works will result in spending eternity with Satan and his demons.

Saving faith is always obedient faith. Jehoshaphat demonstrated faith by turning his eyes on the Lord and repenting of all sin. Jehoshaphat’s singers’ demonstrated faith by marching out to the battlefield, armed only with songs of praise. Likewise, saving faith in Jesus as Savior will be demonstrated in a life of continual repentance and obedience.

Therefore, to be saved, you must first truly believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who atoned for your sin on the cross. He was buried, and rose again, proving He is God Almighty. He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father waiting for His command to return to earth to judge the living and the dead. That judgment includes you, and you cannot save yourself. If you truly believe this, then you must do what God says. Like Jehoshaphat, you need to repent of your sin and depend on Christ to save you.

Then God tells us, like He did Jehoshaphat, to do something simple that requires complete trust in Him. He tells us to die to our old life by putting it to death in a watery grave of baptism for the forgiveness of our sin. He promises us, that like Jesus rising from the dead, we will be raised unto a new life born of the Holy Spirit. Then the Holy Spirit will lead us and tell us what to do when we don’t know what to do.