Written by Paul J. Bucknell on June, 27, 2020
Living in Distressful Times (2 Chronicles 15:1-6)
1 Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded, 2 and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. 3 For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law. 4 But in their distress they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him. 5 In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress. (2 Chronicles 15:1-6 NASB)
Distress describes those alarming times when our solutions from the past no longer work; people don’t know how to proceed safely. They no longer come up with ideas but instead feel helpless due to their dire straits.
Perils of all sorts will arise, even at the end of the age. These challenges will not be easily overcome, but they are not impossible with God’s help. The promise of God’s sovereign care boldly shines into the oppressive darkness.
“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued” (Daniel 12:12).
We thank God that He speaks comfort and encouragement through the scriptures no matter how distressful situations that we find ourselves in. We might wonder if God is still in control or whether He cares. King Asa had great faith; He earlier fought off the great Ethiopian army by God’s strength (2 Chronicles 14). As life proceeded along, however, he and his people seem to have strayed from God (2 Chronicles 15:1-3). Their faith again needed to be strengthened.
Distress is a means to strengthen our faith and clarify our path. Difficult circumstances force us to think more clearly about our circumstances and our need for our Lord.
King Asa’s situation somewhat parallels ours, maybe not with the wars but with the impending troubles coming across the world.
“In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress” (2 Chronicles 15:5-6).
It is vital to see that “God troubled them with every kind of distress.” The virus, threats of war, and escalating economic upheaval point to the messy birth of a new era. Whether natural, manmade or orchestrated by the evil one, the Lord is behind all of it. People look at distress personally. That is understood. We care about our family, church, and neighbors. We must remember the larger theological implications, however.
The Lord has the right to trouble any nation or neighborhood. This happens as He restrains His grace and peace is withheld. As the Lord holds back His grace, evil steps in to fill the void; this is the principle of darkness. Judgment remains under God’s jurisdiction and responsibility. Who can deny that we deserve greater judgments due to our numerous sins?
Our particular circumstances differ. We can gauge the severity of the distress by how many people are affected and the consequences that rise. If I get Covid-19, that is one matter. But if it threatens all the nations, this suddenly becomes a catastrophe. My company or bank might go bankrupt—that is personal, but this economic collapse is happening simultaneously in countries all around the world. We should look at our particular circumstances from both perspectives as it helps direct our prayers and response.
I believe that we are entering a very challenging time; perhaps the ends of the ages have come upon our generation. Wars will arise; poverty will increase; people will even die. But whether we are to witness the extreme side of things, it doesn’t matter. God still oversees His children despite the trauma incurred; He is always trustworthy.
In any case, by knowing our Father carefully oversees the world even in its duress, we can take His offered peace by trusting Him, just as the angel told Daniel it would occur at the end of the age, “At that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued” (Daniel 12:12).
Times of “no peace” force us to respond. Distressing times open up our hearts for everyone—including ourselves, to see what courage and faith rule our lives. I love to see the response of King Asa and the people to the Lord after God sent the prophet to warn them.
“But in their distress they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him.”
Hopefully, the phrase “they turned” doesn’t need to describe our circumstances by revealing how we, at some point, left following the Lord. But, at least, the Lord is always looking for our hearts to turn towards Him. The word “turned” implies a repentant heart. Sometimes it is complacency, religiosity, or lukewarmness. At other times, skepticism, death, and bitterness rule our hearts. Despite their past, however, “They turned to the Lord God of Israel.”
Many people will turn to their idols once their hope is exhausted, but for us, it is the time to trust in God’s Word. He gives us faith to steer us on His path, no matter how difficult our circumstances. The Gospels are preoccupied with restating, event after event, how Jesus trusted His Father to help Him rightly respond.
I work with numerous pastors overseas, mainly in impoverished situations. I can’t protect them through this Covid-19 plague. They think Americans can help them, but they don’t realize how devastated America is. Again, whether it is man-induced or not, it is a situation God has allowed to occur. Our hope, no matter the extremity of our circumstances, must remain fixed on the Lord. God is Lord of all the nations, and so, all can equally trust Him to help them as their Father. We need to learn from King Asa’s response, “they sought Him.”
What a grand hope we have! God is a stronghold for the worst of circumstances. No matter what kind of distress might come upon His people during this age, God’s promises are true for all His people, not just King Asa’s generation. What do we find? They sought God. “And they sought Him, and He let them find Him.” When people seek God, they find Him. (We never need to worry about how God will respond to the people seeking Him.)
When we find God, it means that the peace, power, and love that we find in Him is adequate for the troubles that we face. We might not save our nation, our riches, or even our lives, but we gain the courage to arise and take our place in His battle.
At some point, we need to realize that all the things we work for on earth will end. It might come sooner than planned, but it doesn’t matter. Finding God and His promised strength become all-important at this stage. He will always give us faith and the words to share with others.
With a large family of eight children, you might wonder how I deal with all the potential harm that could come to their lives. It is not any different. I hope that they will also find God in a new way during the dire circumstances about them. I pray that they, too, will discover God’s amazing grace anew. I have to trust God to work in their lives as He is working in me. My responsibility is to intercede for them, provide a good example, and bring forth timely and encouraging words from the Lord.
My hands and strength are limited, but God’s power is not. Finding God means to discover all that we need to live faithfully unto His Name. God buttresses us to hold forth a strong testimony and speak the special words for those about us.
I like how God allowed King Asa and his people to find God. There is not a more magnificent discovery on earth. In one sense, we hope difficult circumstances will rocket each of us closer to the Lord. In Asa’s discovery of God, he found extra courage and direction. “Now when Asa heard these words and the prophecy which Azariah the son of Oded the prophet spoke, he took courage and…” (2 Chr 15:7). The remarkable story continues on whenever His people turn to the Lord. Remember all the many works that Asa later did (i.e., read after these verses) that came through his courage to trust God came during the middle of the worldwide panic.
I know we don’t want to volunteer for distressful times. I much rather sit down at the table to enjoy a feast with my children and grandchildren rather than wiping away their tears from suffering. But God’s Word tells us here, that if He allows trouble to arise, His radiant promises adequately equip those going through difficult times.
We need faith not only for our lives but for our loved ones and those around us. We are not the only ones getting stressed out; we need to help others about us by giving them insight and protection.
From an objective viewpoint, distressful times are tools to draw God’s people back to Himself and to equip them for mighty deeds even in distressful times. Some perils only reach the end of our hospital beds, but others, like what King Asa experienced, reached all the nations about him. But as he opened up His heart to God’s promises, He found God—the key to all the promises of God. God would withhold nothing.
We need to make adjustments to our lives now. In this way, we better prepare ourselves for what is coming. In our particular case, the Lord is directing us to downsize. Oh, it’s so hard to throw stuff away. Objects gain an association with a certain child or significant event—whether it be toy or book. We must let them go. We must make ourselves open to the Lord’s next steps.
As with King Asa, the most important thing is not the distress, but our response. Recognize our discovery of God is more important than all. Once we find God, we have all. God’s promises are always big enough to help us aid others. We can trust God for all of our awkward responses. The grand purposes for which God made us will come into view as we fully trust Him.
Study Questions on 2 Chronicles 15:1-6
- Read through 2 Chronicles 14. What was the result of that famous victory?
- What state of affairs does it look like with King Asa in chapter 15:1-3? What has changed spiritually?
- Read 2 Chronicles 15:4-5. Describe the change of circumstances (different from chapter 14).
- What does “for God troubled them with every kind of distress” mean?
- How does the author explain the way God typically allows evil to come?
- How did King Asa respond? Does everyone react as he did? Explain.
- What does it practically mean for God to let us find Him?
- Describe a time when you found God (cf. 2 Chr 15:4).
- Describe a time when you did not seek Him?
- How do you respond to the author’s thoughts on gaining enough faith for ourselves, family, friends, and even strangers?