Someone recently told me, “I wish I had your life. You get to do so much. And you don’t have any problems.” I just smirked. He didn’t have a clue. Everyone has their own set, of victories and challenges. Some just complain more than others.
I wrote this in September of last year, after a tiring and painful episode in my career. I surprise myself at how creative the adjectives my mind comes up with whenever I remember the people who brought it about. Then I repent, and remind myself to overlook offenses, to forgive, and to offer up my hard heart to God for softening.
The Song of David
He was a hero. He was THE hero of Israel. He had saved the nation. He had killed Goliath. The king’s daughter, Michal, loved him, so did the heir to the throne, Jonathan. He had earned a high rank. He had found favor in the eyes of the people. The beautiful daughters of Israel sang his praises, “Saul has killed his thousands, David his ten thousands.” The young boy, David, had reached the top. And in his heart and soul the promise of kingship rested, for the prophet Samuel had anointed him.
But now he is on the run, living in caves with criminals and outcasts, with nothing to his name, and no weapons with which to fight. Considered insane by the very people he once conquered, the Philistines, he will survive through the kindness of others and by inquiring of the Lord. And He will become king. In the process he will have to fight and learn to forgive, he will fall in love again, and he will sing a new song.
After quite a difficult last few months, dealing with challenges in business, accusation, and an overwhelming workload, I found myself praying the words of Psalm 40 early one morning, that God would answer me as I wait patiently on him, that he would hear my cry. The Psalm starts:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
As I read the words aloud I came upon verse 3:
He has put a new song in my mouth –
Praise to our God…
I stopped and thought about that. “He has put a new song… “ What does a new song have to do with God saving David?
The answer would come to me one evening, during one of my legendarily long baths. As I stood under the shower, the hot water easing my tired self after another deflating day, I thought about everything I was doing and the challenges in some of the businesses, that despite MY obedience and MY hard work and MY accomplishments the burdens seem to keep getting heavier and the adversity much tougher. I found myself asking God for answers. Why do my days feel like a roller coaster, one day high on achievement and the next day crushed beneath responsibility? Why do the events surrounding me seem to block the prophecies planted in my heart? Why do you raise my hopes only to allow them to be crushed anyway? And as I was running through it all in my head the audible voices of women chanting interrupted my arrogance, “Saul has killed his thousands. David his ten thousands. Saul has killed his thousands. David his ten thousands.” Over and over I could hear them, “Saul has killed his thousands. David his ten thousands. Saul has killed his thousands. David his ten thousands.” And I felt myself shiver and couldn’t help but cringe, because I finally understood. Just like David in the Bible, God had to remove the old song of my soul, my own praises, the pride in my own achievements and respectability, so that He could replace it with a new song – praises to Him.
There’s nothing that brings out the worst in people like a problem. Tempers rise, greed awakens, worry abounds, short-cuts are taken, accusations are hurled, and relationships are strained during times of testing. It’s easy to rationalize our evil actions as our effort to solve our problems but this kind of response doesn’t solve anything, it actually leads to more problems. I always believed that the purpose of adversity was to make me stronger. I would face a challenge that would reveal my limitations and I would respond by working harder, studying more, sleeping less, pushing people more, sacrificing more, anything to help me rise up to the test because I knew that after all the effort I would be better and more capable. While this is partially true, I realize now that I had missed the real purpose of adversity and, because I did, missed out on its true benefit as well.
The purpose of adversity is to humble us, to bring us to a point where we realize we cannot do it alone, and to respond, not in self-reliance and human effort, but to respond in worship. In adversity we see how incapable we are and how much God is really worth. And that is worship, to ascribe to God His true worth. Amazingly, when we enter God’s presence and worship we are able to overcome for in God’s presence is fullness of joy (somewhere in Psalm 16), and the joy of the Lord is our strength (somewhere in Nehemiah), the strength we need to defeat whatever we’re facing.
David had learned the secret to overcoming, and he found it in the new song God had taught him. One of my favorite verses in the Bible goes, in Isaiah 26:3-4: You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength. With the understanding of the true purpose of adversity we are led to worship, and then we experience the true benefit, which is not so much that we can rise up, but so that we can see our God rise up for us.