4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
7 I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.” (Psalm 55:4-8)
Ever felt like this?
I wonder what was happening in David’s life to make him feel that all he wanted to do was run away (or “fly away”) to a place of safety. Knowing his story, there were plenty of occasions it could have been, but we are not told. But, in this psalm, there is no indication that this is what he actually did.
Well, that’s Psalm 55! It’s interesting though that in today’s psalm, Psalm 11, he rebukes his counselors who suggest that this is what he needs to do. Here David says:
1 In the Lord I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.
2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.
3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
Why so positive here? Because, it seems, he knew without a doubt that:
4 The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
So, why such a different reaction to what seems to be a similar situation?
Well, obviously with no background information, we may never know.
But, just maybe we have both psalms as a gift from God to be able to relate to both these times in our lives.
Psalm 55 for the times when we are feeling very weak and vulnerable and completely overwhelmed by all that is happening to us and we say (or maybe sing!) to ourselves, “O for the wings of a dove…” And yet, despite the seeming hopelessness of the situation maybe we are still able to say in faith:
22 Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
23 …But as for me, I trust in you.
Then Psalm 11 for the times when, despite all that is happening, our confidence remains strong that God is on the throne and he can be trusted as we find our “refuge” in Him.
Like David, our feelings fluctuate. Some days we are feeling full of faith and confident that God is “on the throne”. Other days we may be not so sure of things, crying out to God, just as the father of the boy possessed by an evil spirit did to Jesus when he said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Paul certainly understood tough times and he too cried out to God for the strength to go on. Listen to one occasion as mentioned in 1 Corinthian 12:7-10:
“I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Not exactly fun times, and certainly not what we would desire naturally, but opportunities to rely upon our God rather than upon ourselves or others. Opportunities to strengthen our faith in him and allow him to transform us to become more like Jesus. And so David confidently ends this psalm with:
7 For the Lord is righteous,
he loves justice;
the upright will see his face. (Psalm 11:7)
Father, thank you that no matter what the circumstances of our lives, you are with us, you are good and your ways are good. Thank you that in the tough times your grace is all sufficient. Thank you that, like Paul, we have experienced those times when your power is made perfect in our weakness. Amen.