Most of us have found ourselves in a Catch-22 type situation from time to time. They are awkward, frustrating, confusing, and infuriating, to say the very least. Wikipedia defines the meaning of Catch-22 as follows:
A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules or limitations. The term was coined by Joseph Heller, who used it in his 1961 novel Catch-22. An example is:
“How can I get any experience until I get a job that gives me experience?” –Brantley Foster in “The Secret of My Success.”
Catch-22s often result from rules, regulations, or procedures that an individual is subject to, but has no control over, because to fight the rule is to accept it. Another example is a situation in which someone is in need of something that can only be had by not being in need of it (e.g.: the only way to qualify for a loan is to prove to the bank that you do not need a loan). One connotation of the term is that the creators of the “catch-22” situation have created arbitrary rules in order to justify and conceal their own abuse of power.
Joseph Heller coined the term in his 1961 novel Catch-22, which describes absurd bureaucratic constraints on soldiers in World War II. The term is introduced by the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes “Catch-22” to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity—hoping to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missions—demonstrates his own sanity in creating the request and thus cannot be declared insane. This phrase also means a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. (Quote source here.)
For anyone who has ever found themselves in a Catch-22 type situation, the definition above is a moot point as you know exactly what it feels like and how impossible it seems to be in order to escape from it.
In an audio file with attached transcript published on July 12, 2018 titled, “When You Are Confronted with a Catch-22 Situation,” by Dr. Harold J. Sala, speaker, author, Bible teacher, and founder of “Guidelines for Living,” he states:
“From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2, KJV).
It’s a catch-22 situation, one where you can’t win. That expression “catch-22” was made famous by a book by the same title, one that came out of the war experiences of Joseph Heller. Heller was flying over France in World War 2 when shrapnel hit his plane, a B-25 bomber. Up to that time, he had been pretty well fearless, but no longer. He wanted out.
His emotions formed the backdrop of his most famous book, a 1961 novel called Catch-22. In the book, John Yossarian decides he doesn’t want to fly any more dangerous missions so he invents a mysterious liver ailment, sabotages his plane, and tries to get himself declared insane.
Here’s the predicament. Yossarian learns that in the military, anyone who really is insane has to be excused from flying dangerous missions, but the catch is that he must ask to be excused. But “anyone who is smart enough to show ‘rational fear in the face of clear and present danger’ obviously is not insane and must continue to fly.”
Yes, you’ll find Heller’s expression “catch-22” in the dictionary. It’s defined as “a problematical situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem…” or “an illogical, unreasonable, or senseless situation.”
The fact is that catch-22 situations have been with us for a long time and are still very much part of life. That’s what confronted the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt and were trapped by the Red Sea, the mountains of Pi Hahiroth, and the Egyptian Army. That’s what confronted Daniel when he either had to bow to the image of the king or be tossed to the lions. A catch-22 situation also confronted King Jehoshaphat, who had committed to serving the living God, yet was confronted with the armies of Moab and Edom.
Sometimes people feel that they are in a catch-22 situation when a marriage goes bad. The choice is stay there and suffer or feel that you are wrong in walking away from it. In business you face it when you know that a fellow employee is cheating on the company. Do you report the situation and face the consequences of being a whistle-blower, or do you violate your conscience by keeping quiet?
Catch-22 situations are grim apart from one thing, the one who can eliminate the hopeless feature. It is God. When Jehoshaphat faced a catch-22 situation he cried out, “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). Did you hear those words, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you”? God is always enough.
When Daniel faced a catch-22 situation, he chose to either die with integrity or to allow God to bring him through the difficulty.
There were lots of times when David faced catch-22 situations, but he learned that God makes a difference. He cried out, “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2, KJV).
One of the reasons that God allows catch-22 situations is so we learn that He can roll back the waters of the Red Sea, and stop the mouths of lions, and turn marriages around.
Joseph Heller–not God–is the one who invented that phrase–catch-22! The good news is there is nothing too hard for God. Have you learned this?
In another article using that same passage found in 2 Chronicles 20 that was published on April 2, 2020, titled, “Praying in Impossible Situations,” by Greg Laurie, author and senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, he writes:
Do you feel like you’re in an impossible situation right now? Maybe the “what if” has become reality for you, and there’s no apparent way out. Maybe a national crisis has quickly become a personal crisis.
I recently read that nearly half of the country believes the deadly coronavirus is a wake-up call from God. Perhaps you’ve had this kind of “wake-up call” in your own life, and you’re looking for answers.
If so, it’s crucial to recognize the power of God that can take place through urgent, storm-the-gates-of-Heaven type prayer.
We find an example of this in 2 Chronicles 20, where the bottom had suddenly dropped out for Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. He received the devastating report that a vast army was coming against them.
But Jehoshaphat responded with three things that we can also do when crisis comes our way.
1. He Prayed with His Family
Where did Jehoshaphat begin? He prayed with his whole family. He said, “O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (verse 12). Then we read, “Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord” (verse 13).
That is such a powerful scene. Here was a multitude of vulnerable people with an invading army coming against them, and King Jehoshaphat was saying, “Lord, we are depending upon You. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”
Humanly speaking, it is a picture of weakness. King Jehoshaphat was saying, in effect, “Lord, here we are. We have the kids. We have an army coming toward us. What am I going to do here? Our eyes are on You.”
Many times we think of prayer as a last resort. After we have exhausted every other possibility, all we can do is pray. But that is what we should have done in the first place. It has been said that if you are swept off your feet, it is time to get on your knees.
Jehoshaphat shows us the importance of united, family prayer.
God answers the prayers of His people and can turn around radical, hopeless situations when His people go to Him in prayer.
2. He Recognized that the Battle Was the Lord’s
Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, faced a dilemma. His enemies greatly outnumbered him. To make matters worse, his enemies had joined forces with the other enemies of Israel and were coming to destroy him.
It was hopeless. There was no way that he could meet this army with what he had. He was going to be destroyed. What did Jehoshaphat do?
The Bible says that he “set himself to seek the Lord.”
Take another look at the content of his prayer: “O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:12 NKJV).
The Lord answered Jehoshaphat, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. . . . Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you” (2 Chronicles 20:15–17 NKJV).
He prayed, looking for an answer. And God answered Jehoshaphat’s prayer, intervened, and rescued them.
Jehoshaphat recognized that this crisis was out of his control. God turned an impossible situation around.
3. He Led with Worship
So Jehoshaphat and his army went out to meet their enemies, but they put the worship team out front.
We read that Jehoshaphat “appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever’” (2 Chronicles 20:21).
The Bible says that when they began to sing and praise the Lord, the enemy started fighting among themselves and destroyed each other.
Something supernatural takes place when people worship, more than we may ever realize. Even the enemy’s power can be broken through worship.
When we don’t know what to do, we can always pray and worship.
Maybe you are facing what seems like an impossible situation right now. You may not be able to see a way out. But God can. Call on Him. Then stand still and see what He will do.
Desperate Times Call for Desperate Faith
Here is a picture of a vulnerable people who don’t know what to do, who are completely dependent upon God. It is a great picture of what to do in time of need.
God answered the prayer of the king and dramatically altered his circumstances by destroying his enemies. Remember, you can turn to God in prayer in desperate circumstances, and He will hear your cry. (Quote source here.)
On April 15, 2019, I published a blog post on my second blog, “Reflections,” that is also titled, “All Things Are Possible” (click here to go to that post). That post goes into great detail regarding what is meant by “all things.” I’ll end this post with same reminder from that post that includes a verse found in Romans 8:28 which states: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” “All things” include our Catch-22 and impossible situations that seems to have no solution from a human perspective.
Therefore, let us never forget in the midst of our difficult circumstances no matter how impossible they may seem to be, to pray, worship, and give thanks to God, and remember that…
With God . . .
All Things . . .
Are Possible . . . .
YouTube Video: “The God of the Impossible” by Lincoln Brewster: