Yesterday, I said I love the Psalms because they’re a kind of journal, a human’s intimate and honest relationship with God. What do King David’s battles have to do with our “civilized” lives? God called David “A man after My own heart” I Samuel 13:14 NKJV, and since I’m madly in love with God, I want to get to know His friends. David made some hefty mistakes, but he showed true humility when faced with them, and total abandonment in worship. He really loved his Creator. Joyful abandonment in worship? Totally me. Humility? Work in progress. We have even more common ground, and that’s where I really learn from him.
David’s life was intense, scary, violent, passionate. The attacks he experienced involved personal betrayal and physical weapons that left people dead, maimed and injured. I don’t deal with those situations in my daily life, although I recognize that there are areas in my own city and around the world, where the bloodthirsty and the power hungry rip lives apart with no remorse.
In Ephesians, Paul explains why I find it so easy to identify with David’s emotions. I can’t work a slingshot, but I still have battles to fight:
Ephesians 6:12 NKJV For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.
Peter understands it, too.
I Peter 5:8 NKJV Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.
Identify the Players
In the absence of an enemy with a body, my fight is on the inside. In my head is occasionally a voice I would never allow to speak to someone I love. It lashes out at me for not moving fast enough, not accomplishing enough, eating too much, sitting too much. Hormonal fluctuations and creative frustrations make me more vulnerable at times.
Peter’s experience with Jesus demonstrates how our thoughts can be manipulated by the devil. Because of his love for Jesus, Peter tried to shush his Friend when He talked about death. Jesus knew what was about to happen and was trying to steel himself and prepare his friends for it. Peter’s words echoed the temptation that had been presented to Jesus in the desert, and Jesus recognized it. That’s when He spoke His famous line, “Get behind me, Satan!” in Matthew 16:23. He had just finished announcing that Peter was the rock on which his church would be built, so logic dictates that he wasn’t calling Peter “Satan.” Over the years, I’ve become quicker at recognizing the devil’s manipulations in my own life, especially those times when a gas line of criticism opens inside my head and attempts to steal my oxygen and leaden my bones. There’s a reason he’s called the Tempter, the King of Lies and The Accuser.
I read the Psalms and feel I’m linking arms with David. He faced flesh and swords. I face darkness and discouragement. Both of us talk with fearless honesty to the Lover of our souls and then we turn our chins up to Him and trust. Trusting is initially a decision, but it becomes an instinct as day after day God proves Himself faithful and present. I wrote a song based on Psalm 118, whose verses seemed to be aimed directly at me, at my friend who used to cut herself in anger, at my friends coping with addictions and at those dealing with depression.
Psalm 118:5NIV In my anguish, I cried to the Lord and He answered by setting me free…13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me…17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
My arm-linking song is called “Today,” and it’s a livingroom recording with JT Gentry. You can listen to it here.
What are other things we can do to deal with struggle?
Spiritual Tai Chi
The most effective tools are those that stay sharp. Practicing self-care regularly communing with God and nurturing a couple of healthy friendships are a little like Tai Chi. Believe it or not, that slow motion martial art builds useful battle skills and terrific balance. The practice of self-awareness and God-awareness make us more resilient and capable. A praying friend means that you always have someone on your side. David didn’t go it alone—he had traveling buds.
Tomorrow, we’ll take this one step further. For now, read Psalm 1. Verses 1-3 are fundamental guidance for the Christian walk. My mom used to read that chapter to each of us kids until we pretty much memorized it, and I’m glad.
Lord, thank You for building our skills before we need them. Thanks for being our Friend as well as our Savior, for devoting so much effort to making Yourself known to us. Heighten our awareness, so that we can identify the tactics of the one who would stop us from doing Your will. Strengthen us so that we can stand firm and hold tightly to Your hand. We love You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, amen.