Immerse in Fear, Fear takes Over—Slump Guns by Max Lucado
All the passages below are taken from Max Lucado’s book “Facing Your Giants” published in 2006.
Goliath OWNS a slump gun: a custom-designed, twelve zillion meter, .338 magnum with a fluted barrel and a heart-seeking scope. It fires, not bullets, but sadness. It takes, not lives, but smiles. It inflicts, not flesh wounds, but faith wounds.
Ever been hit?
If you can’t find your rhythm, you have. If you can’t seem to get to first base (or out of bed), you have. Every step forward gets lost in two steps backward.
Skies darken and billow.
Your nights defy the sunrise.
You’ve been slumped.
Problems are the Sioux. You are Custer. You feel like you’re on your last stand.
David feels like it is his. Saul has been getting the best of David, leaving him sleeping in caves, lurking behind trees. Six hundred soldiers depend on David for leadership and provision. These six hundred men have wives and children. David has two wives of his own (all but guaranteeing tension in his tent).
Running from a crazed king. Hiding in hills. Leading a ragtag group of soldiers. Feeding more than a thousand mouths.
The slump gun finds its mark. Listen to David: “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 NIV).
No hope and, most of all, no God. David focuses on Saul. He hangs Saul’s poster on his wall and replays his voice messages. David immerses himself in his fear until his fear takes over: “I will be destroyed.”
He knows better. In brighter seasons and healthier moments, David modeled heaven’s therapy for tough days. The first time he faced the Philistines in the wilderness, “David inquired of the Lord” (23:2). When he felt small against his enemy, “David inquired of the Lord” (23:4). When attacked by the Amalekites, “David inquired of the Lord” (30:8). Puzzled about what to do after the death of Saul, “David inquired of the Lord” (2 Sam. 2:1). When crowned as king and pursued by the Philistines, “David inquired of the Lord” (5:19). David defeated them, yet they mounted another attack, so “David inquired of the Lord” (5:23). David kept God’s number on speed dial.
Confused? David talked to God. Challenged? He talked to God. Afraid? He talked to God … most of the time. But not this time. On this occasion, David talks to himself. He doesn’t even seek the counsel of his advisers. When Saul first lashed out, David turned to Samuel. As the attacks continued, David asked Jonathan for advice. When weaponless and breadless, he took refuge among the priests of Nob. In this case, however, David consults David.
Poor choice. Look at the advice he gives himself: “Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul” (1 Samuel 27:1 NASB).
No you won’t, David. Don’t you remember the golden oil of Samuel on your face? God has anointed you. Don’t you remember God’s promise through Jonathan? “You shall be king over Israel” (23:17). Have you forgotten the assurance God gave you through Abigail? “The LORD will keep all his promises of good things for you. He will make you leader over Israel” (25:30 CEV). God has even assured your safety through Saul. “I know indeed that you shall surely be king” (24:20).
But in the wave of weariness, David hits the pause button on good thoughts and thinks:
Sooner or later, Saul’s going to get me. The best thing I can do is escape to Philistine country. Saul will count me a lost cause and quit hunting me down in every nook and cranny of Israel.
I’ll be out of his reach for good. (27:1 MSG)
So David leaves, and Saul calls off the hunt. David defects into the hands of the enemy. He leads his men into the land of idols and false gods and pitches his tent in Goliath’s backyard. He plops down in the pasture of Satan himself.
Initially, David feels relief. Saul gives up the chase. David’s men can sleep with both eyes closed. Children can attend kindergarten, and wives can unpack the suitcases. Hiding out with the enemy brings temporary relief
Doesn’t it always?
Stop resisting alcohol, and you’ll laugh—for a while.
Move out on your spouse, and you’ll relax—for a time.
Indulge in the porn, and you’ll be entertained—for a season.
But then talons of temptation sink in. Waves of guilt crash in. The loneliness of breaking up rushes in. “There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak” (Proverb 14:12-13 MSG).
Hiding out with the enemy brings only temporary relief.
That “amen” you just heard came from David on high. He can tell you. Listen to the third stanza of his song of the slump. In verse one, “he wore out.” So, “he got out.” And in order to survive in the enemy camp, David sells out.
He strikes a deal with Achish, the king of Gath: “Give me a place in one of the cities in the country, that I may live there; for why should your servant live in the royal city with you?” (1 Samuel 27:5 NASB, emphasis mine).
Note David’s self-assigned title: the “servant” of the enemy king. The once-proud son of Israel and conqueror of Goliath lifts a toast to the foe of his family.
Achish welcomes the deal. He grants David a village, Ziklag, and asks only that David turn against his own people and kill them. As far as Achish knows, David does. But David actually raids the enemies of the Hebrews:
Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites…. Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish. (27:8-9 NIV)
Not David’s finest hour. He lies to the Philistine king and covers up his deceit with bloodshed. He continues this duplicity for sixteen months. From this season no psalms exist. His harp hangs silent. The slump mutes the minstrel.
Things get worse before they get better.
The Philistines decide to attack King Saul. David and his men opt to switch sides and join the opposition. Envision U.S. Marines joining the Nazis. They journey three days to the battlefield, get rejected, and travel three days home. “The Philistine officers said, …`He’s not going into battle with us. He’d switch sides in the middle of the fight!”‘ (29:4 MSG).
David leads his unwanted men back to Ziklag, only to find the village burned to the ground. The Amalekites had destroyed it and kidnapped all the wives, sons, and daughters. When David and his men see the devastation, they weep and weep until they are
“exhausted with weeping” (30:4 MSG).
Rejected by the Philistines. Pillaged by the Amalekites. No country to fight for. No family to come home to. Can matters grow worse? They can. Venom flares in the soldiers’ eyes. David’s men start looking for rocks. “The people in their bitterness said he should be stoned” (30:6 GOD’S WORD).
We have to wonder, is David regretting his decision? Longing for simpler days in the wilderness? The good ol’ cave days? No Philistine
How we handle our tough times stays with us for a long time.
rejection or Amalekite attacks there. His men loved him. His wives were with him.
Now, in the ruins of Ziklag with men selecting stones to throw at him, does he regret his prayerless choice to get out and sell out?
Slumps: the petri dish for bad decisions, the incubator for wrong turns, the assembly line of regretful moves. How we handle our tough times stays with us for a long time.
How do you handle yours? When hope takes the last train and joy is nothing but the name of the girl down the street … when you are tired of trying, tired of forgiving, tired of hard weeks or hardheaded people .., how do you manage your dark days?
With a bottle of pills or scotch? With an hour at the bar, a day at the spa, or a week at the coast? Many opt for such treatments. So many, in fact, that we assume they reenergize the sad life. But do they? No one denies that they help for a while, but over the long haul? They numb the pain, but do they remove it?
Or are we like the sheep on the Turkish cliff? Who knows why the first one jumped over the edge. Even more bizarre are the fifteen hundred others who followed, each leaping off the same overhang.
The first 450 animals died. The thousand that followed survived only because the pile of corpses cushioned their fall.1
We, like sheep, follow each other over the edge, falling headlong into bars and binges and beds. Like David, we crash into Gath, only to find that Gath has no solution.
Is there a solution? Indeed there is. Doing right what David did wrong.
He failed to pray. Do the opposite: be quick to pray. Stop talking to yourself. Talk to Christ, who invites. `Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest” (Matthew 11:28 MSG).
God, who is never downcast, never tires of your down days.
David neglected good advice. Learn from his mistake. Next time you lack the will to go on, seek healthy counsel.
You won’t want to. Slumping people love slumping people. Hurting people hang with hurting people. We love those who commiserate and avoid those who correct. Yet correction and direction are what we need.
I discovered the importance of healthy counsel in a half-Ironman triathlon. After the 1.2 mile swim and the 56-mile bike ride, I didn’t have much energy left for the 13.1 mile run. Neither did the fellow jogging next to me. I asked him how he was doing and soon regretted posing the question.
“This stinks. This race is the dumbest decision I’ve ever made.” He had more complaints than a taxpayer at the IRS. My response to him? “Good-bye.” I knew if I listened too long, I’d start agreeing with him.
I caught up with a sixty-six-year-old grandmother. Her tone was just the opposite. “You’ll finish this,” she encouraged. “It’s hot, but at least it’s not raining. One step at a time…. Don’t forget to hydrate. … Stay in there.” I ran next to her until my heart was lifted and my legs were aching. I finally had to slow down. “No problem,” she said, waving as she kept going.
Which of the two describes the counsel you seek? “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed” (Proverb 15:22 MSG).
Be quick to pray, seek healthy counsel, and don’t give up.
Don’t make the mistake of Florence Chadwick. In 1952 she attempted to swim the chilly ocean waters between Catalina Island and the California shore. She swam through foggy weather and choppy seas for fifteen hours. Her muscles began to cramp, and her resolve weakened. She begged to be taken out of the water, but her mother, riding in a boat alongside, urged her not to give up. She kept trying
Be quick to pray, seek healthy counsel,
and don’t give up.
but grew exhausted and stopped swimming. Aids lifted her out of the water and into the boat. They paddled a few more minutes, the mist broke, and she discovered that the shore was less than a half mile away. `All I could see was the fog,” she explained at a news conference. “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”2
Take a long look at the shore that awaits you. Don’t be fooled by the fog of the slump. The finish may be only strokes away. God may be, at this moment, lifting his hand to signal Gabriel to grab the trumpet. Angels may be assembling, saints gathering, demons trembling. Stay at it! Stay in the water. Stay in the race. Stay in the fight.
Take a long look at the shore that awaits you.
Don’t be fooled by the fog of the slump.
The finish may be only strokes away
Give grace, one more time. Be generous, one more time. Teach one more class, encourage one more soul, swim one more stroke.
David did. Right there in the smoldering ruins of Ziklag, he found strength. After sixteen months in Gath. After the Philistine rejection, the Amalekite attack, and the insurrection by his men, he remembered what to do. “David found strength in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6 NIV).
It’s good to have you back, David. We missed you while you were away. [63-71]
I. Associated Press, “450 Sheep jump to their Deaths in Turkey,” July 8,2005.
2. C. J. Mahaney, “Loving the Church,” audiotape of message at Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, MD, n.d., quoted in Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2004), xxii.