DOWN, BUT NOT DEFEATED
King David of Judah and Israel knew he had enemies both inside and outside the palace. Even his own son Absalom tried to assassinate him in order to become king, and it was almost more than he could bear. Why would anyone to whom he had given so many privileges return his generosity with such evil? Yet he needed to keep hope alive in the midst of fear and danger. So David took his concern to God in prayer so he might find peace of mind. This gave him a reason to express himself in song despite his circumstances. By believing that help was on the way, David was able to rejoice because he knew he was not carrying his burden alone.
“O LORD Eternal, it seems that my enemies have increased day by day; yes, the crowd that opposes me is growing larger. Many of them are questioning whether or not my One True God will deliver me this time. But You, O LORD Eternal, You give me such blessed assurance that it helps keep me working on what I’m doing while keeping my head held up. That’s why I’m calling out so fervently to you O LORD Eternal, for I know You will respond to me from where You are on high. Now I can lay my head down on my pillow and go to sleep, knowing I’ll wake up again to a brand new day because the LORD Eternal will help me make it through all this. It gives me a reason why I don’t need to fear these people anymore, no matter how many don’t like me. So I await Your response, O LORD Eternal, my One True God, on how You plan to rescue me. Do something so spectacular that my opponents will be silenced. You are the only One who can order such deliverance, O LORD Eternal, let them see how much favor You place on Your children. ” Psalm 3:1-8
Reflection: Paul Laurence Dunbar, a boyhood friend of Orville Wright, was one of the first African-American poets to gain fame and prove popular among white and black readers alike. One of the poems he wrote in 1913 shares the same sentiment that King David felt. It reads like this:
BY RUGGED WAYS
By rugged ways and through the night
We struggle blindly toward the light.
And groping, stumbling, every pray
For sight of long delaying day.
The cruel thorns beside the road
Stretch eager points our steps to goad,
And from the thickets all about
Detaining hands reach threatening out.
“Deliver us, oh, Lord,” we cry,
Our hands uplifted to the sky.
No answer save the thunder’s peal,
And onward, onward, still we reel.
“Oh, give us now thy guiding light,”
Our sole reply, the lightning’s blight.
“Vain, vain,” cries one, “in vain we call,”
But faith serene is over all.1
He died at the age of 33, and his mother kept his room exactly the way he left it for the rest of her life. On his desk lay this brilliant man’s final hand-written poem. Upon his mother’s death, his friends decided to preserve his works. But when they went to collect his final poem, they discovered that his mother left it where the sun would shine on it every day. So the sun’s rays had bleached out the ink until it became invisible on the paper. As a result, his last words disappeared forever.
When we turn our anguish into a memorial instead of a commemoration, we stand to lose so much of what God has invested in our lives. Grief might come to even God’s most dedicated servants, but it need not control their lives. Sharing what God did for us in life is much better than placing it out of reach with a sign that reads, “Do Not Disturb.” No matter how high the mountain, how low the valley, how cold the water, how hot the flames, how tough the battle, or how painful the wounds; God goes through it all with His children. That’s a testimony that should never be lost. Don’t let your words become bleached out of your memory because you decided to leave them unexpressed due to the heartache you must endure. You never know how much they may give someone else hope in a hopeless situation. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar: by W. D. Howells, Dodd, Mead and Co., New York, 1922, p. 215