We like to think of our leaders as always knowing what to do and when to do it. In real life, however, leaders get overwhelmed and confused just as much as the rest of us. Maybe more.
Nearly three thousand years ago, a new king arose in the Middle East—Jehoshaphat of Judah. In the Bible, 2 Chronicles 20 tells the story of the most overwhelming moment in the young king’s life. Three enemy nations join forces and march against Judah. The message comes to Jehoshaphat—“A great multitude is coming against you” and the text leaves no doubt as to the king’s response—“Jehoshaphat was afraid.”
You can’t blame Jehoshaphat. Three against one is poor odds, and he knew what happened to captured kings. He was truly afraid and confused.
While our overwhelming moments are likely not so life-threatening, we can learn something from the king. After all, confusion and chaos is part of the human condition, and it seems particularly high in the 21st century. Forbes reports that two-thirds of employees report feeling overwhelmed.
And that’s just the everyday sense of being overwhelmed. What about when you pile on a moment of stress—like a job change, a new baby, stress in the marriage, an empty nest, a house sale, a visit from the in-laws. How do we get clarity and confidence in times of total confusion and fear?
So what does Jehoshaphat teach us about moments of chaos and confusion in leadership? I see eight “tips.”
- Resolve that it is totally OK to be perplexed and confused (2 Chronicles 20:12). Take your confusion to God in honest prayer. He already knows you’re overwhelmed anyway. You might as well tell Him. Stop beating yourself up.
- Tune your heart and head to the voice of Jesus (vv. 3-4, 12). As we all know, it is a very noisy world around us, and learning to listen to the right voices is so important for success in life. And the right voices are not always the loudest or the most persuasive.
- If the future is cloudy, go back to the last things you know to be true (vv. 6,7ff). Rehearse the faithfulness and goodness of God in your specific past.
- Has God guided you in the past?
- Has God taken care of you in the past? When?
- What life lessons do you have anchored in your historical memory?
- God often uses outsiders to encourage us and strengthen our heart in times of confusion (vv. 14-21). Who might be in that role with you? Do you have your radar up for outside wisdom?
- Take the steps of faith and action that seem anointed by God and leave the results to Him; in other words, make decisions and take actions (vv. 16-18). Remember, you’re never 100% sure in these moments.
- Never stop praising and worshiping God for who He is and what He has done (v. 18). Don’t let that be contingent on the results. A grateful heart is a powerful muscle.
- What God does in and for us usually has a bigger agenda than just us (v. 29).
- Peace and rest are often outcomes for us when we act wisely and are harnessed to Jesus (v. 30).
In his book, Better Under Pressure, Justin Menkes notes that the best leaders are those who flourish under pressure, as if pressure itself is a given.
Jehoshaphat flourished, but in an odd way. He flourished by admitting his fear and then still acting by leading his people through the fear.
The pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that many of our troubles come because we listen to ourselves instead of speaking to ourselves. In this moment, Jehoshaphat spoke to himself. He didn’t have all the answers, but like any great leader, he would lead the way in finding them out.
His moment of greatest fear became the moment when he shines the brightest, though. The king leads the people in humble prayer, honestly confessing, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”