16 And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’ 17 For thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.’
2 Kings 3:16-17
Have you ever gone through a dry season with your faith? If you are like most of us, human, you know what I mean by dry season. When your faith is still there intellectually, you know that you are a follower of Christ, but you are just not “feeling it”.
Prayers seem to be between you and you, or perhaps you and the group you are praying with but they don’t seem like they are reaching God. Sitting down to read the Bible seems like the last thing that you want to do as you have read it all before and yet you still feel like nothing is working. Quiet times and other God focused things in your life seem like burdens that are bearing no fruit and your soul feels dry.
As Christians, how do we deal with times where we just don’t feel like God is with us?
An incident from the life of the kings of Israel may be helpful to answer this question. It takes place when the Nation of Israel was divided and the two kings, Jehoram and Jehoshaphat unite to go to war against Moab, Israel’s ancient enemy. The armies come together but in order to fight Moab they need to decide how to get there. The kings decide on a route that leads them through the desert for days. They are literally in a dry and dusty place and after 7 days they realize that they have no water. There is also no water around that they can see. Uh oh!
They are in big trouble – in the desert without water is a pretty bad position to put yourself in. It should not be missed that there is no indication that the kings prayed about whether this battle was a good idea, whether they should join together or the route that they were to take. Decisions made without seeking God’s guidance do tend to lead to wordly predicaments.
One king, Jehoram son of Ahab looks around at the circumstance, throws up his hands and blames God for where they are despite never asking God’s opinion on his actions:
“Alas! For the Lord has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab.”
Jehoram outright accuses God of abandoning them and giving them over to Moab to be destroyed. He looks at his circumstances and despairs and blames God for it.
Jehoshaphat reacts differently. He may have gotten himself in a mess and he is likely feeling just as much despair as Jehoram, but he rather than trust himself and reinforce his own errors, he seeks the Lord and tries to stop the bleeding:
11 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?”
So one of the servants of the king of Israel answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.”
12 And Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.
When faced with an impossible situation and though tempted to throw up his hands and join his fellow kings in turning on God, Jehoshaphat refuses to do so. Rather, he recognizes that they have gotten themselves way off track and seeks a man of God for wisdom and to hear from God directly.
There are many voices in the world today that are all too happy to encourage us curse God and die as the ever helpful wife of Job suggested oh so long ago to her despairing husband when we are in trouble and struggling. There are many voices that will get in the boat of dread and fear and sorrow with us over worldly troubles like the disciples freaking out and telling each other they were doomed while in the storms on the Sea of Galilee.
There are fewer voices that will remind us to trust in the Lord and keep our eyes on Jesus even in a great storm like Elisha does in this passage or mature men and women of God do in our churches today. Seek those voices out.
If we are faced with great difficulty and feel like we are abandoned, stop, do not move any further and find someone who can speak with the Lord on your behalf and then speak truth into your life. Christianity when done well is a group sport.
Like the kings, we may have made a series of bad decisions to get to this place and may need someone who loves the Lord more than us (that is a good thing btw) to tell us we screwed up, so don’t be afraid to ask for help so that we don’t reinforce our own bad choices.
We should also stop and seek the Lord ourselves. Our heart may be telling us to panic, we just have to do something, but that is again the same thing that got us there in the first place. The heart is deceptive, feelings tricky, it is only the Spirit that is completely trustworthy. The Lord says that He will never leave us or forsake us. He says to come to Him when we are weary and heavy laden so take Him up on the promise. Seek Him and keep seeking Him. Allow Him time to speak to you and provide the answers that we really need. As my wife likes to put it, do the first things first, even if you don’t feel like it and then trust the Lord.
So back to the kings – they seek out Elisha, surprisingly he has been with them the whole time and yet they have not asked him anything. Through Elisha they are told:
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’ 17 For thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.’
Make this valley full of ditches. Go out into the land where there is no water in a time where you are dying of thirst and are dry beyond belief and do physical labor to make holes in the desert. What foolishness this seems like! They did not have backhoes and bulldozers here, just old style shovels and strong backs and God wants them to dig holes in an area where there is no water.
Do we see the opportunity that God is providing and what He is trying to show them?
He is the consummate teacher, particularly in the area of faith. His goal is teach these guys who have not prayed, not been faithful, not even sought out His direction how and why to follow Him. He is trying to teach them to walk by faith and not by sight in New Testament terms. So before answering their very late in the game prayer, He wants them to walk a little bit, just a few steps by faith and undertake a time of labor motivated solely by faith in Him in order to see what that brings about – a time of refreshment.
They need to believe that what they are doing is based upon God’s Word and therefore will be fruitful, even though it appears even more of a foolish waste of time and exhausting dryness and dustiness.
We might not be out in a literal desert, but a time of desperate thirst may come upon our lives particularly if we have spent a while walking by sight and lead ourselves into a spiritual wasteland.
So what do we do? Do we go out in the backyard and start our own digging? No, we have not been told do so. But what does the Bible say to do as Christians while walking with Jesus in order to know Him better?
Put simply as the old children’s song goes, read your Bible, pray every day and you will grow, grow, grow! Those are not the only things, but they are a good start. Trust in the Lord, fast, repent from the things of the Lord. Cry out to Him even though we feel like all is lost.
We may not feel like it is doing anything, how many hours did the Israelites feel silly digging ditches before any water was present, but following God out of faith always bears fruit. In faith inspired obedience we set the stage for God to do His wonderful work and bring water back to our personal wasteland.
When the Israelites listened to God’s direction with faith that God would respond, He did:
Now it happened in the morning, when the grain offering was offered, that suddenly water came by way of Edom, and the land was filled with water.
The land that had been dry and barren was filled with water, a feat that the Isrealites just absolutely knew was impossible and could never happen. What did God say through the Prophet Isaiah?
“Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.
So when we are struggling, seek godly wisdom if our own wisdom fails, seek the Lord and trust in his directions for us even if our deceitful heart is telling us it is not working. Dig your own personal ditches during your time in the desert with faith that God will fill them and provide a time of refreshing and God will come through just like He has been since the time of kings with funny names. Then wait and see what the Lord does as long as it takes.