If you ever visit the Western Australian gold mining city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder then check out the story of C Y O’Connor. This city is located about 600 km east of Perth and is in a very dry and arid part of the continent. When faced with a growing population related to a succession of gold rushes to this area in the late 1800s, the authorities had a major problem – lack of water! The problem was tackled by the Premier of WA, Sir John Forrest, under the direction of a brilliant engineer, C Y O’Connor. The task: build a water pipeline 530 km from a Perth dam to Kalgoorlie! It would pump 23,000 cubic metres of water per day and was considered one of the greatest engineering feats of its time.
It was completed in 1903, but sadly, C Y O’Connor never saw its completion. He died in 1902. Even sadder, he took his own life, and many consider that the reason was that he “was subjected to prolonged criticism by members of the press and also many members of the Western Australian Parliament over the scheme. John Forrest, always a supporter, had [also] left Western Australian politics to become federal defence minister…defamatory attacks by the press had wounded him.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._Y._O%27Connor )
The issue of being wounded by “prolonged criticism and defamatory attacks” is all too common and David also experienced it and spoke about it in Psalm 55. He wrote:
1 Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;
2 hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
3 because of what my enemy is saying,
because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me
and assail me in their anger.
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.”
I wonder if you have ever experienced, or in fact, are experiencing such pressure as O’Connor put up with or what David is talking about here. All too common, but not to be desired for one minute!
No wonder David uttered those now well-known words, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
Sadly, O’Connor, and many others before and after him, have opted for suicide as, what they considered, the only way out. This was not an option though for David, and hopefully not for you or me either.
For David, as it can be for us, the place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm is found in God himself. It is not found in opting out, but in opting in instead. As Wilcock says, “Opting out seems an obvious solution to pressures you cannot cope with. Why not just walk away from them? Can’t you take a holiday? How about a sleeping pill, or if things are quite impossible, fifty sleeping pills? Almost as bad as the last suggestion, is that you fly away from your anxiety by blocking it out of your mind, that is, repressing it. The likelihood is then that it will return in even some more dangerous form…For David…the answer to fear and panic was not to run away from them, but to face them, as something the Lord had permitted and could use to his glory and David’s blessing.” ( # 5)
Later in the psalm David suggests,
Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken…
But as for me, I trust in you. (verses 22-23)
There are many reasons for such things as anxiety and depression, which sadly sometimes lead some to suicide.
Before you get that far, if you need help with any of these or other mental health issues, then please seek it out. Speak to God “who cares for you”. Then seek people who also care and there are many of those around. Call 13 11 14 to Lifeline Australia or go to a helpful website like https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ or the equivalent wherever you live.
Thank you, Father, that you understand the tough times we have to go through. Help us to never opt out but to turn to you and then to those others who care for us for help. Amen.