David: The Illustrated Novel by Michael Hicks Thompson

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First and Second Samuel by Walter Brueggmann

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Preparing for Sunday

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The Unlikely Chosen

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Illustration by Dean ZacharyDavid said in his heart, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me than to escape to the land of the Philistines. —1 Samuel 27:1

Sometimes, we are confronted with situations  so difficult that, no matter which way we turn, the path before us looks bleak and forbidding. To make matters worse, when we finally choose the route that seems least injurious, we have no assurance that our choice is right, that things might not go from bad to worse. We must step forward regardless, clutching tightly to trust and hope that in the end all will be well. In times such as these, faith can slip away from us far too easily, darting out of our reach as we stare beseechingly into life's murky waters. 

The David we find here is in just such a predicament. He has played the mouse in Saul's deadly game for seven harrowing years. Yet even though he has shown Saul more than once that he means him no harm, deigning not  to hurt the king when he has found him at his most powerless, Saul is unrelenting. David's only escape seems to be to cast his lot with the Philistines—the neighboring tribes who have long battled the Israelite people. David believes that only through such an alliance will Saul "despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand." (1 Samuel 27:1b)

In his book First and Second Samuel, Walter Brueggemann gives us some perspective on David's decision. "David, like Saul, has made a career of fighting Philistines, " Brueggemann writes. "The Philistines are the litmus test for any would-be Israelite leader. ...Only David would dare an alliance with Israel's perennial enemy. David is not afraid to risk what is radical and unconventional as a way into his future, because he knows Yahweh stands with him and because he is the man for such a risk."

Faced with two inauspicious scenarios, yet knowing he must act, David takes a tremendous chance, depending on God's favor and his own cunning to see him through. It is a decision that could result in devastating consequences, compromising his men's trust and his future as Israel's leader. Though no doubt we would wish otherwise, David's story illustrates again and and again that dedicating our life to God does not render us immune to hard choices and no-win situations. Reality can be cold and hard and faith does not insulate us from life's traumas. Our God of supreme intelligence has created us with the wits to assess our situation and the courage to step forward knowing that God steps with us. We may not ascertain if our choices are best  for a long time hence, but regardless of the path, God walks with us through the brambles.

Our goodness or our faith cannot insulate us from the common experiences of life. Tragic events come into our lives regardless of who we are. And they sometimes strike so suddenly. Arthur John Gossip, the renowned Scottish minister of another generation, preached his famous sermon, "When Life Tumbles in, What Then?" the Sunday after the sudden death of his wife. That is always the question, "What Then?" How do we survive the crisis? 

Here are two quotes from that sermon:

"Those who live in the sunshine may have faith, but those of us who walk in the shadows must have faith."

"Peace does not come with the absence of troubles, but with the conscious realization of adequate resources."

Our resources will be adequate if in the midst of the storms we affirm who we are, remember what we are here to do and claim the presence of the One who never leaves us.

Brooks Ramsey
Surviving the Storms of Life

There's nothing written in the Bible, Old or New testament, that says, "If you believe in Me, you ain't going to have no troubles." —Ray Charles

Most of us arrive at a sense of self … only after a long journey through alien lands. But this journey bears no resemblance to the trouble-free “travel packages” sold by the tourism industry. It is more akin to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage—“a transformative journey to a scared center” full of hardship, darkness and peril.

In the tradition of pilgrimage, those hardships are seen not as accidental but as integral to the journey itself. Treacherous terrain, bad weather, taking a fall, getting lost —challenges of that sort, largely beyond our control, can strip the ego of the illusion that it is in charge and make space for the true self to emerge. If that happens, the pilgrim has a better chance to find the sacred center he or she seeks. Disabused of our illusions by much travel and travail, we awaken one day to find that the sacred center is here and now—in every moment of the journey, everywhere in the world around us, and deep in our hearts.

—Parker Palmer
Let Your Life Speak

Even there in the pit from which we thought there was no reprieve, the Spirit of God was standing over us. The very troubles that seemed so difficult, the very things we would never have wanted to be exposed to, the very things we would not have chosen for ourselves actually become a means of life and blessing for us. Ask yourself, “When have the trials of my life been a means of blessing?”

Renée Miller
Healing Prayer

On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.  Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. —Psalm 22:10-11

Surely evil cannot be any more vile than the face it showed during the holocaust. Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka stand as searing reminders of the depth of human corruption. As Elie Wiesel, another survivor of the holocaust, continually reminds us, such horror should never be forgotten. Any religion that cannot acknowledge such bitter fruits of human sin is not worth believing. For only if we admit the rank horror of evil can we hope for a God and a faith strong enough to redeem it.

G. Lee Ramsey Jr.
from a review of The Pianist


There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to avoid them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them will we understand why they were there. —Paulo Coelho, The Fifth Mountain

Gracious God, when unexpected trouble bursts unbidden and unwanted into my life, give me a patient heart and a sure sense of your care and love.  Help me remember that even when life feels unfair, your presence still surrounds and sustains me.  The knotted parts of my being are never outside the reach of your touch.  Give me faith to surrender my need for fairness, knowing that even in chaos, the eye of heaven is still turned towards me.  I ask this for the sake of your love.  Amen.

—When Life Feels unfair
Prayers for Living