Fight, Flight or Faith?

I said, “If only I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and find rest.
How far away I would flee;
I would stay in the wilderness.” 
(Psalm 55:6-7)

If you could fly away from your troubles, where would you fly? Would it be to some remote mountaintop? How about a deserted beach somewhere tropical? Speaking of deserted, here in Psalm 55 King David longed to fly away to someplace very familiar, the barren Judean Wilderness, where he was the Bear Grylls of desert survival for the first decade of his adult life.

Anyone want to go to the wilderness?

Psalm 55 is one of my favorites to teach on because it encapsulates a very tempting response to heartache, brokenness and stress. David starts out the psalm by pleading with God to answer his prayer for help. His words are woven with intense emotion, the type of emotion you or I have when our hearts are immensely distressed.

God, listen to my prayer
and do not ignore my plea for help!
Pay attention to me and answer me!
I am restless and in turmoil with my complaint; (55:1-2)

David is restless. If his state was anything like Psalm 6 or Psalm 51, he probably could not sleep. He was a restless heart. Have you experienced something similar? Have you ever lost sleep over an issue that stole your thoughts and tortured your spirit? Have you cried out to God for His answer to your pleas, His response to your requests, and His compassion on your soul?

Unlike other instances of David’s restlessness, in Psalm 55 it wasn’t his sin that kept his heart in turmoil. It was pressure from the outside. In the next few lines of his song, David says that his enemies are taunting him, pressuring him, and bringing disasters upon him. Shoot, they may have even repossessed his chariot at 11 p.m. while he stood helplessly by. How cruel!

There is some debate about which instance in David’s life the great king refers to in this psalm. I tend to think it was when his eldest son, Absalom, led a military coup and sent his old man fleeing for his life. The coup happened unexpectedly and David’s heart and emotions were sent reeling. His own son! Not only that, but some of David’s inner circle backed Absalom, adding further insult to injury.

It is after his complaint before God that David thinks of his options. Does he fight, does he take flight or does he just try to forget about it?

My heart shudders within me;
terrors of death sweep over me.
Fear and trembling grip me;
horror has overwhelmed me. (4-5)

I hate those feelings! Don’t you? Now, David had a tendency to overstate things just a bit. But when you wear your emotions on your sleeve like he did, even little things seem really big! I personally think David would’ve made a great New Yorker. Maybe from Queens or the Bronx. My friend Jerry is from Queens and he wears his emotions a lot like David. Everything is BIG.

The great Israelite king starts to daydream in verse 6.

I said, “If only I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and find rest.
How far away I would flee;
I would stay in the wilderness. Selah
I would hurry to my shelter
from the raging wind and the storm. (6-8)

Just like you and me, David longed for rest from his troubles. And even though he knew that God was his spiritual refuge and his physical defender, David longed for relocation above all. Let me escape this mess I’m in! I’ll go somewhere that I know protects me from pursuers. Saul couldn’t get me in the wilderness, neither will my enemies!

The Judean Wilderness is kind of like Mars. Dry, inhospitable, and great for hiding.

The Judean Wilderness is kind of like Mars. Dry, inhospitable, and great for hiding.

Historically and biblically, the wilderness was David’s greatest proving ground as a leader and as a God-follower. It was there that he grew from a teenager running from Saul into a defender of the poor, leader of the outcast, and king-in-the-making (see 1 Samuel 22:1-2). It was during his desert days that David wrote many of the psalms attributed to him.
And so David dreamed of taking flight and not fighting his foes any longer. In the king’s mind there was rest to be had if he just ran away from his troubles. Assuming his troubles didn’t eventually find him, of course. Which we all know that they eventually do!

Fists or Flee?

Some people choose to fight when they’re backed up against the wall. They come out swinging, accusing their enemies of everything they can think of and firing back with verbal barbs and insults. Lawsuits, cold shoulders… they do whatever they can in order to fight back against their troubles.

Some people are like David. They choose to run away during tough times. Just recently, police arrested a man who hid out along the Appalachian Trail for six years while running away from embezzlement charges. But while running may seem like a good idea, it doesn’t solve anything. In fact, all it may do is make things much worse!

David knew that his dream of flight was but an emotional wish. That’s why he turns his attention in the psalm to God’s justice on his enemies. In verses 9-15 and 20-21, David describes the depth of his distress. We find out that not only are his enemies causing havoc inside “the city” (Jerusalem?) but they are being led by a close friend, someone that David worshiped beside at the tabernacle! And so the king cries out for justice. Wouldn’t you?

Jogging the Memory

But I call to God, and the Lord will save me.
I complain and groan morning, noon, and night,
and He hears my voice…
God, the One enthroned from long ago,
will hear… (from 55:16-19)

Something you and I would be wise to remember when we go through tough times is that God never, ever closes His ears to us when we pray. No matter how angry we are about our situation, God loves His children dearly and will always hear us when we need Him. This is not because of our own goodness or because we “deserve it.” It is because we have Jesus Christ sitting at God’s right hand, whose blood is sufficient to cover our faults, and serving as an Advocate for us.  I love how the author of Hebrews puts it, “Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help (Hebrews 4:16).”

God hears you. Know that with confidence! David said he complained and groaned all day long. Hey! I can do that, too! And God heard his voice, just as He hears yours and He hears mine. David’s memory of God as being “enthroned from long ago” is his assurance that God isn’t new to this whole “save the sinking soul” party. He has a track record! And that record is one of salvation… over and over and over again.

So What Should We Do?

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
God, You will bring them down to the Pit of destruction;
men of bloodshed and treachery will not live out half their days.
But I will trust in You. (55:22-23)


Those two things stand out above the rest when we are facing troubling times. They work hand-in-hand, too! To “cast” is to throw something away from yourself. Think of the old children’s game “hot potato.” A burden is in your hands… throw it to someone else! In this case, throw it to the one being who is more than capable of handling your situation: God.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you (1 Peter 5:6-7).”

The exhortation of Peter is the lesson from David! To “trust” means… well, I think you know what it means. Let it go!

In Psalm 55, David says that the Lord will sustain the one who gives their burdens to Him. Isaiah, 200 years later, said that,

“(God) gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall,
but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).

Cast and Trust.

In my life experience, God has sustained me through words of encouragement and little “helps” from co-workers and friends. He has also provided humor to take my mind off of myself and deep conversation with loved ones so that I’m reminded of God’s love for me and of His provision.

DO NOT BE ALONE DURING YOUR TIME OF TRIAL. Seek out others. Some of them may be carrying a pair of eagles wings just for you!

When you cast your burdens onto the Lord’s plate, you must trust Him to answer your pleas and help you. God may not act quickly — certainly not as quick as we’d like — but He will always help His children. ALWAYS. So keep your head up, keep looking around you, and if you are casting and trusting, I think you’ll soon be finding that God is offering help all around you! Look in the least likely of places. God is everywhere and He is working everywhere.

I don’t know what kinds of troubles you may be going through this very day. But I pray that you find His help during your moment of great need. Look for it! And trust Him.

Be God’s!

— John