Satan uses traps. A favorite bait is trouble—in various flavors. The method is proven in the case of monkeys. Monkey catchers take a strong container with an opening just wide enough for the monkey to insert his hand. They place fruit in the container, which they chain tight. A monkey follows the scent to the container, puts his hand in, and clutches the fruit. However, his clenched fist is too large to extract from the opening. So long as the monkey loves his fruit more than his freedom, he’s trapped.
Satan’s worry-trap works because human nature is to focus on problems, believing that sweating solves them. Now, of course, we should do our part to resolve difficulties as they arise; human effort is fine. But it can become counterproductive, and trap us.
Here’s how a letter from the tax office set me muttering: “I owe back taxes and a penalty from eleven years ago! You must be kidding.” By ten o’clock that night, I had found the fading tax return but discovered that many of the supporting documents were missing. After all, the tax office doesn’t usually go back that far. It was the classic spiritual distraction: a problem large enough to frighten us but giving the appearance of something we can tackle, if we could only . . .
So began a night of mental fist clenching. Tossing in my bed, I pieced together my battle plan—my written response, people who might help me. The later it became, the more my thoughts turned anxious—finding the money, paying penalties . . . ugly scenarios like prison! It is strange how our imagination becomes so extreme when we are sleep-deprived. I was trapped for the next week, locked into analyzing and strategizing my way out of the problem—until I took it to God. He calmed me and showed me the steps to resolve it.
King Jehoshaphat avoided a potential trap altogether. The nation was under attack and Jehoshaphat was afraid, but he immediately “turned his attention to seek the LORD” (2 Chron. 20:3). His prayer is worth studying (vv. 6-12) but it’s Jahaziel’s prophecy that provided the key to staying free—it included worship.
“Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.” Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. The Levites, from the sons of the Kohathites and of the sons of the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel, with a very loud voice. (2 Chron. 20:15-19)
Avoidance of worry-traps depends on understanding that we are God’s people and that He is committed to take care of us. Jahaziel and Jehoshaphat were certain that God was with them and would act on their behalf.
Worry-traps are more common than we realize. And they don’t just vanish; staying free requires discipline. At every point in the story the temptation to panic remained. Repeated reminders to focus on God were essential to avoiding the allure of self-absorbed anxiety. So next day, Jehoshaphat encouraged the people to continue trusting God and praising Him.
They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.” When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the Lord and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” When they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed. (2 Chron. 20:20-22)
God’s solution was completely unexpected. Never in a hundred sleepless nights would Judah have expected the enemy to kill each other. But that’s the hallmark of God’s activity—the inconceivable, the astonishing, the miraculous.
Why does it take so long for us to learn to trust God? Perhaps part of it is pride; it’s hard for us to admit we are powerless and clueless. Do we prefer to wrinkle our brows, puff up our chests, and ball our fists? Perhaps we enjoy grappling with our problems more than the freedom of trusting the Lord. My first step to freedom is to acknowledge that the sweet and juicy fruit of solving my own problems tempts me.
Judah’s worship continued after they gathered the spoils from their fallen enemies. They blessed God and returned to Jerusalem with rejoicing and music.
Every man of Judah and Jerusalem returned with Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them to rejoice over their enemies. They came to Jerusalem with harps, lyres and trumpets to the house of the Lord. (2 Chron. 20:27-28)
Judah was not a problem free nation. However, in this instance, they lived a life of worship—through the good times and the tough times. The bait in Satan’s trap went untouched that day.