July 21, 2022

What To Do When You’re In A Catch-22 Situation

“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 the 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).

Are you confronted with a catch-22 situation? One in which you feel there’s no solution? There is a way out. It’s God.

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 that?

Resource reading: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30