What do you do when you face great fear, heavy frustration, or deep disappointments in your life?
I tend to become resentful, to make excuses, to blame others, to despair, and to turn to forms of escapism. Others take revenge or lash out at others or discard ethical standards or drink or jump into an affair or eat or run away.
When David (the shepherd who became king) faced great fear, heavy frustration, and deep disappointment, he wrote a song which is included in Scripture as Psalm 63.
First the context of the psalm, then the content:
The title of this psalm informs us that it was written by David while he was in the desert of Judah. The psalm speaks of people seeking his life and lying about him. Most commentators suggest the psalm was written while David was fleeing from his son Absalom who had thrown a military coup to take the throne. David fled Jerusalem. Absalom took over his palace, stole his wives, and came after him to kill him. David fled into the desert—“a dry and weary land where there is no water.” On his way, others turned against him, mocking him as he went.
Now the content of the psalm:
In the midst of great fear, heavy frustration, and deep disappointment, David takes stock of what matters most to him in life.
What matters most to David is not what he lost. It’s not his palace or his crown or any other worldly possession or accomplishment. What he longs for most desperately is God.
He’s on the run in a desert. He knows what it is to be desperately thirsty. Yet what he thirsts for most urgently is God.
Everything else in his life seems to fall out of contention in comparison to his longing for God. With his very life on the line, David recognizes that God’s love “is better than life.”
According to legend, a young man ran after Socrates one day, calling, “Socrates, Socrates, can I be your disciple?” Seeming to ignore him, Socrates walked into a nearby body of water. The man followed him, repeating the question, “Socrates, may I be your disciple?” Socrates turned and, without a word, grabbed the young man, dunked him under the water, and held him down until he knew the young man couldn’t take it any longer. When Socrates released his hold, the man came up gasping for air. Socrates said to him, “When you desire the truth as much as you seek air, you can be my disciple.”
The recent struggles in David’s life had—so to speak—held him under water. What David came up gasping for was for God: “My soul thirsts for You; my body longs for You.”
In verse 8 David speaks of his soul “clinging” to God. He uses the same word as God used in Genesis 2:24 to describe a husband clinging to (cleaving to or being united to) his wife, and the same word used in Ruth 1:14 to describe Ruth clinging to her mother-in-law. David longs for that kind of closeness with God.
The lesson David learned and recorded in Psalm 63 was affirmed by St. Teresa of Avila many centuries later: “The soul is therefore neither content with nor desirous of the world’s satisfactions, because it has within itself what pleases it more…being with Him is what it wants.”
Fears, frustrations, and disappointments come to all of us. We may turn to resentment, excuses, blame, despair, revenge, or to a variety of escapes, but hope and peace and serenity and love will not be found there. Only in God will we find peace and hope and serenity and love amidst the struggles of our lives, so we will do well to seek God desperately even in the darkest times of our lives. As Corrie ten Boom points out, “There is no pit so deep that His love is not deeper still.” So even in the hard times, I want to learn to dig down deeper into God.