A Word of Grace – September 26, 2017

Dear Friends,

There will be no message next week. The next message for Monday, October 9 will celebrate the 19th anniversary of the Word of Grace messages.
. . .
There are days that close in like a cave around you. Days when you are unjustly attacked, oppressed, and feeling down. Days when your enemies are implacable, but your leadership seems no more than the captaincy of the stressed, the destitute, and the malcontented (1 Sam 20:1-2).

How do you find your way out of a day like that?

The Psalms offer an answer for those who want more than the motivational book du jour. There are two simple points in the prayer of Psalm 57 that can transform the oppression of our present circumstances into the very life and light of God.

David was peering into the gloom of the Cave of Abdullam. A wailing lament, “Do Not Destroy,” was evidently running through his mind.

Out of David’s fugitive, wary heart in that moment rises a prayer. It is a good prayer, one of the best: “Be merciful, O God, be merciful to me” (Ps 57:1).

We may fervently pray in desperate times, but do we pray wisely? “Be merciful, O God” is a wise prayer and a complete prayer that puts things in the right perspective. It confesses our need and our recognition that God alone can address that need. Jesus says this prayer, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” sets one right with God (Luke 18:13-14). It is a prayer to remember.

David must have been tempted to leave the cave to fight. His ragged band of rebels likely urged him to do so. There are times when stands must be taken and fights must be made, but not without the express command of God to the obedient soul. This is a lesson that David had learned early on. When he confronted Goliath he said, “The Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand” (1 Sam 17:47). The battle always belongs to the Lord.

There was no command to go out and fight that day in the cave. David stayed put and prayed–
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    until the destroying storms pass by.
I cry to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me
He will send from heaven and save me,
    he will put to shame those who trample on me.Selah
God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.
(Ps 57:1-3)
A “destroying storm” is one that crushes crops, hopes, and lives. It demolishes dwellings, wrenches and racks body and soul, and devastates the land. Destroying storms are not confined to reports on The Weather Channel. They can bear names like cancer, divorce, violence, insolvency, betrayal, slander, accident, failure, selfishness, heart attack, abuse, rejection, and pain–always pain. Hide from a destroying storm and it will find you.

As the storm intensifies, it is time to deploy the shelter of God with a cry for mercy and take refuge there like chicks gathering for safety under the wings of a mother hen. For his part, God protects, God fulfills his purpose for us, God sends help from heaven to save us, God shames those who trample on us; God sends steadfast love to us and is faithful for us.

David prayed to the God he knew– Protector, Provider, Savior, Vindicator, and Lover. He trusted his God with everything even in the confinement of the darkness as the predatory enemy surrounded him. He knew that there was no possible human hope in his dilemma.
I lie down among lions
    that greedily devour human prey;
their teeth are spears and arrows,
    their tongues sharp swords.
(Ps 57:4)
There are troubled days when everyone seems to want a piece of us. David would never have been in that cave if it were not for his success. The more God blessed David’s service, the more jealousy, fear and anger possessed the heart of Saul. It can be devastating to do your best for God and others only to be hated for it. The selfish and the insecure prize the mediocrity of others to the point they seek to deface and destroy the identity that God uniquely gives to each of us.

David had made his mark as God’s man. He had taken down lions, bears, and a giant of epic proportions with nothing more than faith and a slingshot. He refused to wear Saul’s armor to face Goliath choosing to go into battle with his sling and his shepherd’s staff. He told Saul on that occasion, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam 17:37).

This is the confidence exuded by one who knows he is well-loved by his God. That love engenders 3:00 a.m. faith that says–
With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
    What can men do to me?
The Lord is on my side to help me;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to put confidence in men.
(Ps 118:6-8)
David fought God’s battles, God’s way. He knew that human strategies and tactics reflect the weaknesses and limitations of sinful, broken humanity. In fear and paranoia, and misplacing our trust in our own cleverness, we frequently devise plans so complex they trap ourselves. From the day that humans told God, “No thank you, we will figure out good and evil for ourselves,” we’ve been in trouble on this score. Those who would supplant God in leadership are in trouble all the more. That’s a lesson of Scripture bolstered by human history.

Yet, the shepherd boy’s faith and idealism was untarnished by the palace intrigues. His confidence in God was bolstered by his experience. Neither Saul nor his surrogates had laid a hand on David, but instead tripped themselves up with their passive-aggressive scheming against him. God was in control and his enemies were hapless. That’s what David observed in his prayer:
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
    Let your glory be over all the earth.
They set a net for my steps;
    my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my path,
    but they have fallen into it themselves.Selah.
(Ps 57:5-6)
For his part, David looked to God, not his enemies. This is a real test of faith. Do we trust God for solutions or anxiously seek to parry the thrusts of those who mean us harm?

Hunkering down and remaining still while waiting for the Lord to fight for you, is a tough, tough thing to do. We are so anxious to claw control back into our hands, to make decisions and take action, just to do anything but wait.

The promise is ever and always, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still” (Ex 14:14). That’s what David believed and he put the whole situation into God’s hands and left it there.

Yes, the cave he was in was still dark, his companions were no more attractive, his circumstances no less dire, but his God was in control and would do what needed to be done in his divine timing and will. Yielding the battle to God is the battle. With the surrender of trusting prayer, the Lord himself becomes our salvation. He doesn’t just supply answers. He is the answer. You can hear this in the song of Moses and the Israelites after God brought them safely through the Red Sea.

        The Lord is my strength and my might
and he has become my salvation.

(Ex 15:2)

It echoes in the songs of the choir leading Judah’s army into battle against combined enemies because “Thus says the Lord to you: “Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf”  (2 Chron 20:15, 17).

It sings again in the prophecy of Isaiah about Israel’s victory over its enemies–
Surely, God is my salvation;  
    I will trust and not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
    he has become my salvation.
(Isa 12:2)
It is realized in the final cries of Jesus from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. . . It is finished” (Luke 23:46; John 19:30).
It is summarized by the Apostle Paul as the operative factor in the Christian life—

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are; so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31).

Praise is the instinct inspired by trust. One follows another as the day follows night. David followed that instinct in singing praise and gratitude as he closed his prayer–
My heart is steadfast, O God,
    my heart is steadfast.
I will sing and make melody.
    Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
   I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
    your faithfulness extends to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
    Let your glory be over all the earth.
(Ps 57:7-11)
There it is– trust and praise– the powerful rhythm of prayer to energize our lives and keep us going on those days when circumstances close in and oppress us with impossibility, and there is no human help. The time for clever stratagems and machinations is over. Our chameleon-like evasions need to fade away. It’s time to confess our need and our hope.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    until the destroying storms pass by.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8).

Under the mercy of Christ,



Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.


Kent HansenKent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.

Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.