I would not expect a surgeon to fear an injection, nor a NFL lineman to be a germaphobe, or a warrior to worry about confrontation. But the latter is precisely what I find in Psalm 56 -- a big tough guy staring down a big fear.
If you are tempted to shout, "Wimp!" I would caution you, "Not so fast!" The big tough guy is David. David is the man who went toe-to-toe with Goliath. David is one of whom it was said, "Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands." David was a warrior's warrior.
So what was his problem?
David's fear spiked when he was on the run from his own countrymen. He was hiding out in the Philistine town of Gath. Remember Goliath, the giant David fell with a sling and a stone? Goliath was from Gath. So David must have been in a bad way to run to that town for help. Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner says, "To have fled from Saul to Gath of all places, the home of Goliath, took the courage of despair; it measures the estimate of his standing with [his own] people."
In a land of old enemies being hunted by new enemies David cries out:
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
Psalm 56:1-4 ESV
I learn a lot from this passage.
- If you are afraid, you are normal. David said, "When I am afraid" not "If I am afraid." That's telling. There is a reason "fear not" is the most often repeated admonition in the Bible. God knows we are beset by fears. David's prayer is a reminder that there is no reason to chide yourself when fear arises.
- God cares about your fears. Why else would God record this incident in Scripture? God cared for David in his darkest moments -- and he cares for you too.
- We grow when we get real with God about our fears. We live in the macho world that boldly proclaims, "No fear." God, on the other hand, tells us to name them. I appreciate the words of Tremper Longman and Dan Allender:
Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality; listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God. If we want to know God, we must ponder and struggle with our feelings to gain an understanding of the passions that rule us . . . . However, we often turn a deaf ear -- through emotional denial, distortion, or disengagement. We strain out anything disturbing in order to gain tenuous control of our inner world. In neglecting our intense emotions, we are false to ourselves and lose a wonderful opportunity to know God. We forget that change comes to brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.
Fear is an emotion that can usher us into the presence of God -- if get real with God about it. Why not do that right now? Name the fear you are facing. Take it to the One who not only cares about it, but can do something about it.
As I meditated on Psalm 56, I saw something else that both perplexed and encouraged me. David says, "When I am afraid ... I will not be afraid." That is a wonderful paradox.
Tomorrow I'll tell you why he said this -- and why you can say it too.
"To have fled from Saul ..." from Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1973. Page 220.
"Ignoring our emotions ..." from Dan B. Allender and Tremper Longman III, The Cry Of The Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal Our Deepest Questions About God.