Many have felt that the book of Psalms has an unusual appeal to our hearts and minds than the rest of the Bible. Although written hundreds of years ago, when we read the Psalms today, we feel that there is freshness in them. We are easily able to relate our experiences with that of the Psalmists. Perhaps, every single human emotion is expressed with utter honesty. There is a Psalm that talks about happiness, joy…there is one that talks about sorrow and pain, there is another that talks about anxiety, fear…hurt, jealousy…In other words, there is a Psalm for everyone and for every occasion. Our study today is from Psalm 55.It is believed that David wrote this psalm when he was in the midst of a severe crisis. The occasion most likely seems to be the time when David was threatened by his son Absalom’s rebellion. This history is narrated in 2 Samuel 15-17. When we read those three chapters, we get an overall scenario of the context. Absalom wanted to become the king of Israel by removing his father from the throne. David’s friend and counselor Ahithophel also joins with Absalom in this conspiracy. When David comes to know about this, he is suddenly overcome by crippling fear. Let me read 2 Sam. 15:14 “Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem. ‘Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword.” So He runs out of the palace into hiding.
Now let us get back to the psalm by David. Ps 55. It is in the form of a prayer (vs.1) – “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me.” In his prayer David pours out his troubled thoughts before the Lord. He does not hold back his emotions, rather he articulates them with the intensity. Read vs. 2 to 5.
- He was over burdened with sorrow and anguish – (the pain of seeing his own son Absalom rebel against him)
- He was filled with fear – (fear for life, 2 Sam.17 Ahithophel was charting out plans to eliminate David)
- He felt powerless (vs 11. There were riots in the streets, Jerusalem his dream city was being destroyed and looted, technically he was still the king but powerless to do anything )
- He felt the pain of betrayal (– vs 12-14, his closest friend and counsellor has betrayed him)
Thus, it was turbulent period in David’s life. He was in the midst of a psychological battle. He was being stressed out and drained.
Friends, whether we like it or not, for many of us life is like a battlefield, it is a challenge. We all have our own share of problems, anxieties and troubles. Some of us struggle with poor health all the time which makes life bitter. May be some of us go through problems in relationships, between spouses, between parents and children, between colleagues. Perhaps, for some the battle is to keep the family running in spite of constant financial constraints. Maybe for some of us, our problem is an emotional struggle – an unknown fear, a feeling of unfulfilled life, depression, so on and so forth. There is no end to the kind of problems and challenges we face in life.
Now I would like to place before you a question to ponder? When you are overwhelmed by your problems and difficulties and feel that you cannot take it anymore, What do you pray to God? Or What do you ask God to do in your life? Let us first see what David prays for – (v 7-8) “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest – I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter far from the tempest and storm.” In other words, David is saying to God, “God I cannot handle it anymore. I want to be away from this.” What we see here is David’s desire to run away from his challenges. He is not asking God to give him strength to face the situation, rather he is asking God to pull him out of it to a safer place.
Friends, is this not our experience too? Who in this crowd would not crave for “a shelter far from the tempest and storm?” Who among us would not long for safety and security? a way out of our problems? The tendency to escape or run away from the painful realities of life is there within all of us. And this tendency is sometimes reflected in our prayers like that of David’s. Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the famous American novelists of the 19th century, in the midst of a civil war, prayed, “Lord, it is too present with me, too persistent, too painful. I want out of this.” Even our Lord Jesus expressed similar thoughts in the midst of his agony at the garden of Gethsamane. He prayed to father, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” I think the tendency to escape from difficult situations is a normal human response. Having said that, I just want to pause here for a moment and share a few thoughts about escapism.
1) The first thing we need to know is – Running away from our problems provides only a temporary solution. As long as we live in the world, we cannot totally escape from those things that hurt us/our painful realities.
2) The habit of shying away from problems only makes us weak and vulnerable. The strength of a person lies not in his or her ability to escape rather it is in the ability to face the situation. It is one of the paradoxes of life. The more a person is shattered and broken, he or she becomes stronger and stronger inwardly. The more a person is protected and pampered, that person becomes weaker and weaker. Friends, this is all the more true in the life a Christian. Apostle Paul in the midst of so much troubles he faced, proclaims “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loved us.” The hardships and difficulties instead of destroying Paul, it actually built him up.
3) When we attempt to run away from our difficulties and challenges, it indirectly reveals our lack of trust in God.
Now, let us come back to the Psalm for one more time. Look at the latter part of the Psalm, from 16 onwards. Read from 16-23. There is a change in the tone. We see an upward climb in the mood of the Psalmist – from the depth of depression to a state of confidence, from hopelessness to Hope, from fear to trust. This is no ordinary change. It is a drastic one. How did this come about? It is the result of the time he spent in the presence of God (1, 16, 17). As David poured out his heart to God, a miracle happens. Before, he was fearful of the problems but now he is yielding them to the Lord. Before, he thought he would be destroyed but now he believes that he will be sustained. Before, he prayed “Lord take me out of this” but now he prays “Lord I trust you.”
Friends, Spending time with God is the key to our sustenance in a world of uncertainty and turmoil. I think the importance of prayer in the life of believer cannot be overstated. Prayer may or may not remove our problems but it will certainly change our perspective. Prayer is the greatest privilege that God has given to his children. The beautiful hymn written by Joseph Scriven almost 150 years ago echoes this truth,
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
Let me conclude now. The lesson for us today is this – When faced with difficulties and overwhelming challenges, we don’t have to run away from them or attempt easy solutions. Rather, we can derive strength from God to face them with confidence. God will surely give his strength to those who wait upon him. He has promised that in his word. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31). Is that not amazing? This was David’s experience. It could be ours too. Friends, “When God has promised us wings of an eagle why ask for wings of a dove?”
By Sam K John