We often think of life as a mountain climb, an ascent where we make linear progress to a summit and can ‘arrive’ at a peak with satisfaction. In truth, life is more like a meandering river where there are twists and turns we cannot predict and where our own progress often feels more like two steps forward and one back (on a good day) and one step forward and two steps back (on a bad one!) It can be notoriously difficult to view our own progress and we often feel like we have to learn and re-learn the same lessons over and over again.

We have seen David’s growth in mercy and trust as he struggled with Saul’s campaign to end his life and how he spared Saul’s life when he had the opportunity to kill him, not once but twice (see 1 Samuel 24 and 26.) We might be forgiven for thinking that David has reached a good place of trust and confidence in God. But in 1 Samuel 27 we see once again that the real battle takes place not ‘out there’ but in our own minds. David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.” (1 Samuel 27:1)

Despite the assurances of Jonathan, Abigail and even Saul that God’s will will be accomplished and he will be king of Israel one day, despite his own confidence that the Lord would deal with Saul, David now ignores the prophetic word of Gad to return to Judah and once more flees to Gath to serve Achish, a foreign king. Pragmatism dominated his thinking. Weary with being on the run, a semi-permanent base in Ziklag seemed preferable to the fugitive life. The plan seemed to work; he ended up respected by Achish at this point. This life seemed easier, somehow, than believing that God would sort it all out in His time.

It can be extremely difficult to wait for the Lord (Ps 27:14). But Paul makes it clear that the spiritual life can only succeed when we take captive every thought to Christ. (2 Cor 10:5) We have to guard against wrong thinking by allowing our thoughts to be founded on truth (see Phil 4:8) and to essentially take down the lies of the world in order to re-wallpaper our minds with the truth. We have to remember the dangers of going it alone and seek the fellowship of others who believe the truth. We must also guard against weariness, especially the weariness of doing good (see Gal 6:9). Elijah, after that great victory over the prophets of Baal, felt exhausted and wanted to die, believing himself to be the only one left on God’s side. It took rest, refreshment and God’s gentle whisper to his soul to remind him of truth. (1 Kings 19) We do well to learn from David and Elijah so that troublesome thoughts don’t cause us trouble too.