Do you ever feel overwhelmed? In over your head? Swamped by what faces you?
David knew that feeling well. In 1 Samuel 30, he had been on the run from his enemies for far too long. He had been wrongly accused and pursued; facing danger from men and armies alike as he tried to stay one step ahead of those who were determined to end his life.
At this particular time, David and his men were returning to Ziklag, their home base while they were in hiding from King Saul in the Philistine area. They were already vulnerable as they sought to be double agents in enemy territory. They pretended to be friends of the Philistines, all the while raiding their towns, leaving no one to testify against them to the leaders of that nation. In reality, they lived in danger of the nation Isreal, under King Saul’s command, as well as the Philistines. They were caught between a rock and a hard place in essence.
So as they lived under that stress, it was no wonder that they took it hard as they returned home, only to find that they themselves had been raided by the Amalekites. As they entered the town, seeing it burned and destroyed , they were devastated. All of their wives and children were gone. They had been taken captive.
It says in verse 4 that David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. Can you imagine battle weary men bawling their eyes out?! Do you know that staggering feeling of an unexpected blow, when you are already utterly depleted and hanging on by a thread? I do.
There have been times in recent years when all I could do was try and keep my head above water. At those times I was most vulnerable, a rogue wave would hit me from out of nowhere. Feeling on the verge of going under from the strain of life’s circumstances, it was almost impossible not to give way and feel absolutely abandoned, overwhelmed. That feeling left me gasping for air at times, as if someone had just punched me in the gut. I could relate personally with how David and his men wept until they had no strength left.
To make matters worse, it says that David was greatly distressed because his men were talking of stoning him, as each one was “bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters”. They had given way to despair and what is all too predictable, blaming whomever they could at the moment. They were turning on him, seeking to satisfy their anger and vengeance.
But what happens next in verse 6 is remarkable! When all of this was crashing down upon David, losing his own family and having all his men speak of stoning him, he responded contrary to his circumstances. It says, “But David found strength in the LORD his God“.
Wow! How does that happen?! How can someone in such overwhelming circumstances find strength?
I notice immediately the word “but” as it described David’s response. That word lets me know how unusual David was. He did what no one else did. He “found strength in the LORD”. But how did he actually do that?
I immediately go back to some of his most recent Psalms that he wrote during that particular time. They give much needed context and instruction. His Psalms give an up-close and personal view of what was going on in his heart and mind; giving insight into how he persevered so well.
I notice a pattern in most of them. He usually testifies of who God is, what he knows to be truth about the Lord. He recites His character and ability, then he calls upon His help. He laments what he is facing while he ascribes the attributes of God that can help him. He acknowledges his difficulties or crises, but he keeps moving forward with how God is more than able to handle it all. It is as if he describes the desperate nature of his circumstances but counters with the All-sufficient nature of his God.
Psalm 69:29-30 is a good example of this. David exclaims that he is in pain and distress and pleads God’s salvation to protect him. Then the very next verse he says, ” I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”
This teaches me how he found strength in the Lord. First, he turned to the Lord. He did not lament purposelessly. He turned to the One who loved him and who could make a difference. Secondly, he reminded himself of who God was, His character and abilities. This in turn always portrayed his God to be greater than whatever he faced. It set his perspective correctly, because left to our own vision of the reality in front of us, we begin to think the issues are insurmountable. But by remembering our God, we gain valuable perspective that actually produces hope and encouragement in us. Thirdly, he always praised and worshipped the Lord and this was done progressively . He praised more than he fretted! It does not escape my notice that he chose to praise. It was not always easy, but as in verse 30, David said “I will praise….”.
I am so captivated by the One who not only gives us examples of others in the Word, but uses it to teach us how to benefit from their life story. David was one of the greatest when it came to perseverance and devotion. He endured and overcame his breaking point and now we know how; because he found strength in the Lord his God!
What about you? Are you near your breaking point? Are you feeling utterly inadequate for what you face? Remember the lessons of David and you can be the exception to the norm as he was. While others may give way and fold under the pressure, you can find strength in the Lord and overcome!