It came out of the blue. The cloud that had settled over the valley opened up and it began to rain in earnest. Clearly my old Ford Focus picked the wrong day to break down. As I struggled to get out of the car, the icy drops pelted my skin. I stumbled then catapulted to the ground, the rocks scraping my knees.
Eventually the storm passed, but there we were – – just my car and me –- stuck in the aftermath of mud, muck and mire. I bowed my head and sighed. It was the perfect metaphor for where my life seemed to be at that point.
Storms in life come in many shapes and forms. Some seemingly “out of the blue.” Others are more predictable, forming slowly and visibly before they finally hit.
When it’s just a shower, it’s easier to get up and go on. But when it is a full-blown thunder and lightening storm, the fallout can crush even the most resilient spirit. My spirit has not been known for being all that resilient. At least it hadn’t been until I stumbled upon King Jehoshaphat’s secret.
The armies of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir were united with one goal: to remove Israel from the land God had given them. “We are powerless against this mighty army about to attack us!” He exclaimed. (2 Chronicles 20:12)
A plan was formed. The king did something unheard of at the time. Jehoshaphat appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising Him for His holy splendor. “At the very moment they began to sing and praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.” (2 Chronicles 20:22)
When the armies arrived at the lookout point, they saw that not only had none of the enemy survived, they had surprisingly left behind vast amounts of valuables. The plunder was so rich that it took them three days to remove it all. Because of all the Lord had done for them, they named this place of great victory the “Valley of Blessing.” King Jehoshaphat’s secret to victory was blessing! Could it be mine as well?
In ancient Judaism, blessing the Lord was like breathing. The Jewish people would wake up in the morning and the first thing they would do is breathe a prayer of blessing to the Lord, thanking him for life, sight, smell, and other gifts. All day long they would bless the Lord, and in the evening before going to bed they would still be blessing the Lord. By the time of Christ, throughout the day the Jewish people would say over a hundred blessings.
I was intrigued with this idea. The Lord blesses me, but how does one actually bless the Lord? What would happen in my life if I started out blessing the Lord each morning before I got up, and each evening before I went to bed?
Knowing that saying a hundred blessings a day would be a daunting task, I decided instead to initiate a “one hundred day challenge,” for myself. For one hundred days, my prayer in the morning before I got out of bed, and my prayer in the evening before falling asleep would be focused on blessing the Lord.
I chose verses like this to pray:
I will bless You, Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, may I bless Your holy name. (Based on Psalm 103:1)
I will enter Your gates with thanksgiving and I come into Your courts with praise. I give You thanks, and bless Your holy name. For You, O Lord are good. Your lovingkindness is everlasting and Your faithfulness is to all generations, even mine! (Based on Psalm 100:4-5)
During the challenge, other verses and then praise songs began sneaking into my consciousness throughout the day. Near the end of the hundred days I noticed a change in my mental health. No longer did I panic when faced with fear. Depression and anxiety were under control, and when they began to creep up again, I trained my mind to bless the Lord. An underlying sense of peace and joy began to permeate my emotions.
The secret of King Jehoshaphat changed my life. I have learned that there is power when I bless the Lord. How much power? Power enough to not only lift me up out of the muck and mire when the storms hit, but even prevent me from ending up there in the first place.
When things come along that normally would send me into a tailspin, I instead stand strong with Jehoshaphat in my own “Valley of Blessing.”
My “One Hundred Day Prayer Challenge” has moved well beyond the hundred-day mark. It has changed my attitude to such an extent that today I can honestly say with the Psalmist:
I prayed to the Lord and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy. No shadow of shame will darken their faces. Psalm 34:4-5
Oftentimes in this fallen world, trust can feel impossible to muster up - even when it's God who we're trying to trust. How can we work toward giving our trust to Christ more in every aspect of our lives?