“David was now in serious trouble because his men were very bitter about losing their wives and children, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6.
I love this concise statement about David finding strength in God. It comes in the harrowing account (I Samuel 30) in which he and his fugitive companions return from battle to find their camp looted and their wives and children gone. The story is a wonderful encouragement for those who seek to walk with God in the midst of life’s most difficult times. It also resonates authentically with the realities and challenges that we encounter in prayer.
Jesus taught that we are to take one day at a time, “each day has enough trouble of its’ own” (Matt 6:34). There is a version of trouble that we could perhaps describe as “wear and tear” trouble, chronic challenges, reversals of all kinds, new irritants, vexing decisions. There are times, however, when circumstances converge to form a perfect storm of trouble and crisis.
David was now in serious trouble. Serious trouble is complicated and multilayered. It defies management. It’s not a storm that happens in the confines of one’s own heart but involves other players, and often menacing, real time circumstances that require a response. In David’s case, he had been on the run for his life from Saul in the wilderness for years. It was in this place of weariness that those closest to him considered turning violently against him. At the same time he and his companions were in deep anguish at the loss of their wives and children.
But David found strength in the Lord his God. In the extremity of his situation, a precious transaction occurs between David and his God. The oppressive and torturous circumstances are invisibly eclipsed by the faith realities of God’s presence and strength.
How may we participate in this peace and faith in times of extreme trial? How may we subdue our panicked inner first responders when facing crisis? Times of serious trouble are both inevitable and unpredictable. We may say, “nothing could have prepared me for this!” Our theology affirms God’s presence and sovereignty but we covet the capacity to rest in Him and His strength.
Prayer nourishes this capacity. Prayer is the practice of being “out on a limb” with God. It is the practice of having “no visible means of support.” It’s the practice of setting aside every prop and scheme in favor of receiving God’s provision and being completely dependent on him. Often, serious trouble seems to suspend time. Again, prayer acclimatizes us to this strange environment.
Most of us occasionally find the silence and unproductivity of prayer to be uncomfortable and challenging, “I’m not doing anything!”; “Nothing is happening!” But perseverance in prayer is perhaps the best preparation for the inevitable “day of evil” that Paul refers to in Ephesians 6:13. In the same chapter Paul punctuates a wonderful list of God’s attributes and graces (armor) for spiritual battle with the call to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions”(vs.18). By God’s grace, time spent with Him in prayer takes the truths of God in scripture and metabolizes them in our hearts.
The outcome of David’s trouble on this occasion was total restoration. We know from the biblical record and from life that it is not always so! Whatever the outcome of our trials, through humility and prayer we may cultivate a heart that by God’s grace may know the encouragement of his presence and strength.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
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For group discussion:
1.Reflect from your own life on occasions of “serious trouble.” Why are these times such an assault on our faith?
2. In our humanity we will never react perfectly to trouble! How may we nevertheless learn and grow in faith through difficult experiences?
3. How does the obscurity and simplicity of prayer cultivate a heart of faith?
We thank you, Father, that whatever we may feel and experience in times of trial, we are never alone. We thank you for your constant presence and for your invitation to us to remain in your love. We ask that you would help us to do this no matter what the circumstances, Amen.