A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about David entitled, “Was David Bipolar?” To be honest, the title was simply meant to get people’s attention, which it did! I appreciated the comments, especially from a friend named Chris, who in a polite way challenged my stereotypical misconceptions of Bipolarism. I was immediately convicted by his comments because when I wrote the post, I was not thinking about those who genuinely suffer from mental illness, I was thinking of a catchy title for a blog. A better title might have been, “Why Was David Given to Such Extreme Mood Swings?” That title probably would not have attracted as much attention, but would have better conveyed the message and problem I was trying to address. David was not Bipolar, nor did he suffer from any type of mental illness. I have known several people in my life time who have suffered from some form of mental illness and it can be extremely difficult for them and their loved ones, especially if the right medication is not prescribed or taken.
So Why Was David Given to Such Extreme Mood Swings?
David is one of the most intriguing and important characters in the entire Bible. He is uniquely called, “a man after God’s own heart.” For that reason, he is a man that should be studied and we can learn a lot from David concerning walking with God. But a close look at David’s life and the Psalms he wrote shows that David was given to extreme mood swings. Some days he sounds like he wants to die! Other days, he seems like he is on top of the world. Some times he comes across depressed and despairing, and at other times so joyful that he is about to burst. Why?
Let me answer that question first by telling you a story about a dear Christian brother. Jim Leach used to serve with me at our church before moving to Oregon, many years ago. Jim was a part of my high school ministry team and served as the head of maintenance at church. Jim was a kind hearted, giving man, who was an amazing example of being a servant. He spent the last few years of his time in Vista taking care of his ailing mother. A disease was attacking her body in such a way that every year she had to have a body part amputated. She was literally whittling away before his eyes. In the final year of her life, she was reduced to a stump, with no arms or legs.
The entire time, Jim lovingly, graciously and patiently took care of his mother. It was a display of love and affection unlike one I have ever seen in my entire life. When Jim’s mom finally went home to be with Jesus, I asked Jim to share at our annual Thanksgiving Eve service. This service is a night of testimony and worship, giving thanks to the Lord for His faithfulness in our lives. Each year, people who have been through a heavy trial or have seen God do a miracle in their lives, or have recently been saved, are asked to get up and share their story.
Life is Hard, But God is Good!
That night, Jim shared his story about the years of taking care of his mom and watching a disease literally attack her body, but seeing the faithfulness of God in his life and in the life of his mother throughout the whole situation. That night Jim summed up his sharing with a simple but profound statement – “Life is hard, but God is good!”
Life is hard. That is the reason that, at times, David found himself in such despair. David endured more hardship than the average person. He was an individual who suffered from hurtful relationships, maybe more than anyone else in the Bible, accept for Jesus. David was thrust into the limelight in 1 Samuel 17 when he defeated the giant, Goliath. Shortly after that, a jealous King Saul tried to kill him by throwing spears at him. David ended up fleeing into the wilderness and living approximately 15 years as a fugitive. During that time, the most powerful man in Israel, King Saul, was spreading horrible lies about him. David had to abandon his parents, his brothers, his wife, and his best friend to live hiding out in obscurity. That right there would crush most men. David experienced the disrespect of his countrymen who believed the lies of King Saul. People he helped turned on him. Later in life, once he was king, his own son and one of his most trusted friends betrayed him and tried to overthrow his kingdom. For David, much of his life was hard. And the difficulty of life is reflected in a lot of his Psalms.
Look Up, Not Around or Within
In the midst of the difficulties, David would often look around at his circumstances or his enemies and his heart would become overwhelmed with despair. I think that is true of most of us. When we put our eyes on the garbage going on around us, we can completely lose focus. Our problems loom over us like giants seeking to destroy us. It can seem like we are in a raging sea, without a life preserver and we are going to drown. When David put his eyes on himself or on the problem or the person causing his life so much pain, we hear the despair and the discouragement coming out of his heart. He tells God it’s not fair. He cries, he complains, his emotions run wild.
But the great thing about David is that there would come a point when he would stop looking around, and he would stop looking within, and he would look up! He would put his eyes on the Lord, remembering that God is bigger than his problem! God is greater than his enemy! God is infinitely good and that He can be trusted. In that moment when his perspective changed, the Psalm would suddenly change from despair to hope, from being cast down to rejoicing!
In Psalm 43:5, David gives himself counsel. He says to himself, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!”
Worship Is a Choice
This is one of the biggest lessons I think we can learn from David. Life is hard, and if you focus on life it will cause you to despair. But if we would just consistently look up and see the Lord, focus on His power and glory and His past faithfulness in our lives, we will not stay down for long. Life will hurt you, people will fail you, circumstances will unseat you, but in the midst of it all, God remains true and faithful and we can look to Him and worship Him for who He is.
When we sing songs of praise, especially songs that declare the greatness of our God, it allows us to see our problems in light of who He is! And when we see our problems in light of who God is, they get small because He is so big! When we see our enemies in light of who God is, they get weak because He is so strong! When we see the obstacles that stand in the way, that seem like mountains that we could never climb, they become molehills in light of who God is because He is so grand.
You see, we have a choice as to how we are going to live and it all revolves around what we choose to put our focus on. Are we going to focus on the problems or on our great and awesome, all powerful God who loved us enough to send his son, Jesus, to solve our biggest problem, sin! Paul the apostle put it so well when he declared in Romans 8:31-32:
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?
“ Translation: God has already given you his very best. Don’t you know that He will not withhold what you need? He has already given you His best, His son, He will take care of the rest! Paul added these words in Romans 8:37:
“ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
So when life throws you a curve ball, or what can seem like a terrible injustice, when the waves are crashing and the storm clouds are looming, remember that you are deeply loved by a Savior who gave His all for you! He will see you through until the end. He will show His grace to be sufficient in your weakness. If you keep your gaze on Him you will discover, like the sweet Psalmist David and my friend Jim, that “Life is hard, but God is good!”Encouragment, Trials, Warfare