It is frustrating to face enemies we thought we had already defeated.
Polio vaccines are now being offered to children in the UK. We thought the vaccine developed by Jonas Salk in the 1950s had eradicated the disease, but it’s apparently making a comeback.
According to a new survey, 10 percent of K–12 teachers in the US say they’ve been physically attacked by a student. We thought the return to the classroom after COVID-19 lockdowns would be greeted with gratitude, but violence against teachers persists.
And a new study reports that even a “relatively small nuclear war” would “create a worldwide food crisis lasting at least a decade in which hundreds of millions would starve.” We thought the demise of the Cold War would lower the prospects of nuclear confrontation, but this existential and cataclysmic threat clearly persists.
When we face daunting challenges, it is human nature to try harder to do better. We seek to rise to the challenge, trying to solve our problems and secure our future. Our culture applauds such initiative and self-reliance.
We resonate with Theodore Roosevelt’s famous declaration: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause.”
But still our crises persist. Let’s consider another approach.
Hiding from a king in a cave
David wrote Psalm 57 while fleeing from King Saul and hiding in a cave (1 Samuel 24). His prayer begins: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge” (v. 1a). In peril for his life, David takes physical refuge in a cave but spiritual refuge in his God. He does not turn to himself but to his Lord. He refuses self-sufficiency for God-sufficiency.
He continues: “In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by” (v. 1b). Note the change in tenses: David “takes” refuge and he “will take refuge.” To know and experience God’s will for the future, it is best for us to be in his will in the present.
As he trusts in God, he calls to God: “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (v. 2). David believes that God still has a purpose for him, even when his life is endangered. As Corrie ten Boom noted, the darkness of the tunnel does not contradict the sovereignty of the engineer driving the train.
He trusts that God will protect him and judge his adversary: “He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me” (v. 3). David believes that his King is more powerful than the king, even though Saul was the tallest warrior in the land and its most powerful personage.
“My soul is in the midst of lions”
To apply his declaration, name the most powerful person in your life, then imagine that person seeking to kill you. Now proclaim that God will defend you and defeat that person. This is David’s faith, recorded in Scripture so it can be ours as well.
He continues: “My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts—the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords” (v. 4). Trusting God never exempts us from pain and suffering, but God redeems our obstacles by reframing them as opportunities to trust more deeply in our Lord.
In fact, David is certain that his adversaries will fall into the pit they dug in his way (v. 6). As a result, he declares, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!” (v. 7). Like Paul and Silas singing hymns at midnight in a Philippian jail (Acts 16:25), David worships God in a cave while fleeing for his life.
Such worship will begin his day: “I will awake the dawn!” (v. 8). And it will be his public proclamation as well: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations” (v. 9). In fact, David prays far beyond his present circumstances for God’s global glory: “Let your glory be over all the earth!” (v. 11).
Four practical responses
As I noted, Psalm 57 is included in Scripture not for David’s sake but for ours. It is intended as a model for us when we are in the caves of life fleeing our adversaries, whoever or whatever they may be. From his declaration we learn four principles:
One: Turn immediately to God (v. 1). David did not wait to see how his conflict with Saul would turn out. Nor did he try to fight his enemy and then turn to God as a last resort. It has been noted that for many Christians, faith is a spare tire in the trunk when it is intended to be the steering wheel that drives the car.
Two: Believe that God still has a purpose for you in your suffering (v. 2). Circumstances cannot change his character or his providential plans for his people and his world.
Three: Expect God to do whatever is best. No adversary is greater than his omnipotence. No suffering is beyond his redemption.
Four: Use your challenges as opportunities for praise and witness. When people see Christians suffer in faith, they are drawn to the relevance and power of our Lord.
“You will never exhaust his resources”
Paul assured us that God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). Commenting on this marvelous promise, Max Lucado writes: “Let’s talk about our inheritance. As a child of God, you have one, you know. You aren’t merely a slave, servant, or saint of God. No, you have legal rights to the family business and fortune of heaven. The will has been executed, the courts have been satisfied, your spiritual account has been funded.”
As a result, he assures us, “Need more patience? It’s yours. Need more joy? Request it. Running low on wisdom? God has plenty. And you will never exhaust his resources.”
When you’re hiding from a king in a cave, you can turn to your resources or you can trust your King. Choose wisely.