Dr. Jim Denison Reports:
According to a report last week from the CDC, one in four young adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four considered suicide in the past month because of the pandemic. More than 40 percent of those surveyed—and more than half of those identified as essential workers—said they experienced a mental or behavioral health condition connected to the COVID-19 crisis.
Name your greatest challenge this morning. Did you choose it? Probably not. Can you choose how to respond to it? Absolutely.
Find your “Rock of Escape”
Psalm 54 is David’s prayer when he was betrayed to the king who sought his life (1 Samuel 23:19–24). He declares his peril: “Strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life” (Psalm 54:3). He did not choose this crisis, but it chose him.
However, David knows that his circumstances cannot change the character of his Lord: “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them” (vv. 4–5).
As a result, he chooses to worship in the midst of his danger: “With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good” (v. 6). A “freewill offering” is a type of peace offering (cf. Leviticus 7:16) that celebrates God’s goodness.
David is grateful for what God has done in the past: “He has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies” (v. 7). As a result, when he remembers God’s previous provision, he is able to trust him in the present crisis.
Here is how God answered David’s prayer: as the king and his soldiers “were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.’ So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape” (1 Samuel 23:26–28).
In David’s experience, we find three facts that comprise a brief theology of suffering. Please consider them as invitations to reframe your challenges today.
Know yourself more realistically
Oswald Chambers notes: “God expects his children to be so confident in him that in any crisis they are the reliable ones.” We cannot know if we will be “reliable” in the crisis until it comes: “It is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon who we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to trust him, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breaking point and not break in our confidence in him.”
David proved his faith in God when his faith in God was tested at the peril of his life. We do not know how high we can climb up a mountain until we try to climb a high mountain. We discover the strength of our stamina when we test it.
This is one way God redeems the challenges of our fallen world—by using them to reveal our true spiritual condition to ourselves.
Experience your Lord more powerfully
Chinese Christians have a saying: “The greater the persecution, the greater the revival.” Mother Teresa observed, “You’ll never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”
When David asked God to “vindicate me by your might” (Psalm 54:1), he experienced the might of God. By contrast, James admonished his readers: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
I am convinced that we would know more of God’s power if we sought more of God’s power. He honors the freedom he has given us and will not force upon us what we will not receive. But if we will trust difficult times and people to him, he will use them to draw us into his transforming grace.
Luke Ditewig of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston writes: “We Brothers say that the person who most gets under your skin in the community has a special role to play. That one is your teacher. Often what annoys us in another relates to something in ourselves. Uncomfortably, he or she is the one whom you especially need on the bus. We all belong in one large, messy family of God.”
Reveal your Father more persuasively
Before other people will trust God for their “Rock of Escape,” we must trust him for ours. We have no right to expect them to do what we will not do. However, when we trust our Father in our crisis, we show them that they can trust him in theirs.
Jean-Paul Sartre was known for his atheistic existentialism, but he was right when he observed, “It is impossible to appreciate the light without knowing the darkness.”
What about the light will you appreciate today?
NOTE: When I began writing the Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series in 2018, I didn’t know then that it would turn into our most popular series. But I shouldn’t have been surprised: we all have questions for God and about God. I pray that our latest volume encourages you and draws you closer to the Father. Please request your copy of our newest book today, while supplies last.
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