Excerpt from The Prayer of Jehoshaphat: Seeing Beyond Life’s Storms (Stanley D. Gale, P&R Publishing, 2007)
Growing up at the beach, I witnessed many severe storms. Often during a hurricane or nor’easter, I would walk down to the shore and take in the fury of the gray, white-capped, swelling, surging ocean. Sometimes the water would come all the way up, completely engulfing the beach, washing even over the boardwalk. It was an impressive sight.
When the storm passed and the waters receded, the beach would be littered with debris—a treasure trove of shells, driftwood and sea life left behind by the retreating tide. Remarkably, the only way those treasures could be found on the beach was through the storm. The wind and the waves served as the vehicle through which the debris was deposited.
Storms come into our lives with the purpose of God, carrying the treasures of His providence, leaving an aftermath of His grace….
As was typical in battle in ancient times, to the victor belonged the spoils. In this case, Jehoshaphat’s army reaped the spoils of the vicarious victory. Such was the extent of the booty that we are told, “they could carry no more.” “They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much.” (2 Chron. 20:25)
They ventured into the field of battle to survey the aftermath of God’s grace, to take what they had not earned and to gather up an abundance they had not expected. What an amazing picture of God’s grace! That’s what grace is. Grace gives us what we do not deserve. It comes to us as a gift—unmerited, unearned, unexpected. Their faith had not earned a blessing, but it certainly had received a blessing.
We might grimace to think of war and plundering the spoil but that offers an apt picture for the aftermath of the crisis that has oppressed us. It reminds us that there is a struggle involved and blessing from our God, who is not merely waiting for us as a light at the end of the tunnel. He is with us as the light in the tunnel to guide and provide, brightening our way to the bounty of blessing carried by the trial that awaits our exploration.
Now weighed down with bounty instead of dread, Jehoshaphat and his victorious army assembled in the “Valley of Beracah.”(v. 26) Beracah means “blessing.” The concept cuts two ways. On the one hand it speaks to the blessing we receive, for which we are to scour the field of battle, the treasures of grace brought by our God to us through the upheaval. On the other hand, Beracah speaks to the blessings we are to give. We read as they assembled in that valley: “for there they blessed the Lord.” (v. 26) We are to be both recipients and respondents. We are to take stock of what our God has brought us in the storm, and we are to take heed to express to our God glory and gratitude.
Just as the seashore is strewn with treasures transported by the storm, so the crises of our lives bring to us the treasure trove of blessings from the hand of our God. Often in our relief to be done with the trial, we are eager to move on—quickly. But once the tide of turmoil has receded, we don’t want to overlook returning to the sands of battle to collect the spoils. Just looking to surviving the tumult forgets the purpose of God in the storm and neglects the gleanings of grace deposited by it in our lives.
It is on the real field of battle that we must search to glean the spoils of war. If the primary target area of God in His bringing us to face the crisis is the heart, then it is to the heart we must direct our attention to scour the ground and gather the gain.
What are some of the blessings we might find after the high tide of crisis has withdrawn? We look to know God better. What has He taught us about Himself? What do we now know more experientially and not just intellectually? We look to know ourselves better. What areas for spiritual growth has the trial exposed in our lives? What undesirable character qualities has the storm unearthed that we need to address to mature in Christlikeness?
In God’s workmanship of grace, we are likely to find the fruits of joy, peace, patience. We measure ourselves against the doorjamb of spiritual maturity and discover we have grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our God has raised us up with the high water mark of His grace that has and will lead us through many dangers, toils and snares.