The Christian life is not for the fainthearted. Many of us, lulled by false teaching and a misunderstanding of the nature of eternity, assume that a benevolent God will make life easy for us here and now, but the fact of sin and the corruption it has caused means that life on earth is never without its problems and troubles. David, anointed king of Israel by the prophet Samuel at a young age (1 Samuel 16), might have expected an easy journey to the job; after all, it was definitely God’s will for him! But in actual fact, life became intensely complicated for him as Saul’s jealousy meant his life was threatened, and by 1 Samuel 21, we see David as a fugitive on the run, separated from his wife and best friend, Jonathan, and so desperate for sanctuary that he fled to Nob and then even feigned insanity before Achish, king of Gath.
There is often a period of testing between God’s promises to us and their fulfilment. We see that in the life of Abraham, who was promised a son by God, but who then had to wait twenty-five years to see that promise fulfilled in the person of Isaac, and in the life of Joseph, whose dreams of greatness as a teenager were followed by betrayal (sold into slavery by his own brothers) and wrongful imprisonment before he finally came to be the means of salvation during a time of famine. David, thrust into the limelight and successful as a warrior in Saul’s army, is now on the run, having to live amongst the enemy and lie to the priest to get enough bread to survive. If ever we thought a life of faith guaranteed bliss without peril, David rips those fantasies to pieces. We do well to heed this lesson, for we live in the cold light of reality, not the heady warmth of fantasy. God is real, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps 46:1), but He wants us to deal with reality, not imagination or fantasy. So many modern problems stem from an inability to distinguish reality from fantasy and to lament the fact that real life isn’t all we have cracked it up to be!
Yet David also shows us how to praise God in tough times (see Psalm 34, with its determination to praise and extol God no matter what.) He reminds us of God’s deliverance, rescue, protection and care. The psalm is a great encouragement to us, but is especially relevant when we realise that it was written not from a calm oasis but in the midst of this storm. Faith is what gives us roots. God is the One who is there, in the mess of a fugitive life as well as in the blessing of anointing. David may not always get it right – he is human, just like us! But he sticks with God, and because of that is our example in difficult times.