What do you do when fear seizes you, or when frustrations shake around inside of you, or when disappointments deflate you?
Common responses are to become irritable, anxious, resentful, to make excuses, to blame, to discard ethical standards, or to run away into various escapist habits. Common side effects of fear, frustration, and disappointments are exhaustion, detachment, cynicism, impatience, suspicion, depression, psychosomatic aches and pains, apathy, and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.
David, one of the people we meet in the Bible, experienced times of significant fear, frustration, and disappointment. One such time was when his son Absalom led a military coup against him. As David fled Jerusalem toward the Desert of Judea, one who resented him pummeled him with rocks and curses as he went by. Feeling exhausted, worthless, and hopeless, David replied, “My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to” (2 Samuel 16:1).
Psalm 63 is titled as a psalm of David “when he was in the desert of Judah.” Most scholars believe it was written during the time David was fleeing Absalom, during this time of deep fear, frustration, and disappointment.
Since I struggle sometimes with fear, frustrations, and disappointments of my own, I turn to Psalm 63 to see what I can learn from David about how to handle better the struggles in my life.
David begins the psalm with these important words, “O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You.” The Hebrew word used here to describe the way in which David seeks God comes up elsewhere to describe a wild donkey earnestly (desperately) searching for food. In times of fear, frustration, or disappointments, we would do well to search as earnestly (desperately) as a wild donkey searches earnestly (desperately) for food in the desert—as though our life depends upon finding what we are looking for.
How do we do it?
In the book, Directions, James Hamilton shares a helpful illustration: “Before refrigerators, people used ice houses to preserve their food. Ice houses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the ice houses, and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer. One man lost a valuable watch while working in an ice house. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the ice house during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch. Amazed, the men asked him how he found it. ‘I closed the door,’ the boy replied, ‘lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.’”
As with a ticking watch in an ice house, we are more likely to find God when we turn away from the distractions of frantic activities and escapist habits to focus our attention on God.
Warren Wiersbe remarks, “The ability to calm your soul and wait before God is one of the most difficult things in the Christian life. Our old nature is restless…. The world around us is frantically in a hurry. But a restless heart usually leads to a reckless life.”
In the midst of fears, frustrations, or disappointments, we would do well to develop the habit of turning away from the distractions of frantic activities and escapist habits to focus our attention on finding God. As Mother Teresa counsels, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see how the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life.”■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.