Have you ever been in such a fearful situation that you cried out to God for help? A crisis I will never forget took place on the first night our family arrived in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Frightening situations are bad enough in familiar surroundings, but in a foreign place where everything is unfamiliar, a crisis seems much more extreme. There was no 911. No car. No one to help. Late in the evening, just before bedtime, our seven-year-old son experienced a severe asthma attack. Confident that his inhaler would relieve the symptoms and stop the attack, we all went to bed. At 10:00 PM the base generator ground to a stop, leaving us in the dark. Using a small flashlight, I went to check on our son. Still awake, he said, “Mom, just pray that I will be able to trust God when I can’t breathe.” I stacked two more pillows under his head and shoulders and prayed with him before returning to bed.
He later came to our bedroom, flashlight in hand, wheezing and barely able to breathe. Another try with the inhaler failed to improve his breathing. He could not lie down, so we went to the kitchen where he could sit up and rest his head on a pillow on the table. Eventually, I grew so weary that I shared the pillow with him, but I did not sleep. God and I were having a conversation as to who my son belonged to. I had always felt that he was God’s, on loan to us for a short time—but not this short! As I listened to his difficult breathing, I struggled with my need to entrust him to God alone. After many difficult hours, he finally slept fitfully. I slipped back to our bedroom to pray, telling God how fearful and alone I felt. I pleaded for help! I knew God was with me, and that He alone could rescue us in this crisis. As Martin Luther said, “The Lord first allows us to become afraid, that He might relieve our fears and comfort us.”
In I Samuel 21:10-15, David responded to a crisis in a very intriguing way. When fleeing from Saul, he ended up in the hands of the Philistine king. Scripture records that David, in great fear, pretended to be insane, scribbling on the doors of a gate and producing saliva that ran down his beard. The king reasoned that he had enough crazy men to deal with and let David go. I find it comforting that David’s first emotion was fear, as fear is often my first reaction when I am faced with absolute helplessness.
At first, I thought David’s successful escape was due to his amazing cleverness, but later I realized that David had a ‘crisis-management plan.’ Psalm 34, which David wrote as a result of this crisis, recorded what First Samuel did not—David’s immediate reaction in spite of his great fear. God has an immediate reaction too!
I sought the LORD, and [God] answered me;
[God] delivered me from ALL my fears (Psalm 34: 4).
In a time of great fear, David wrote, I sought the Lord… This was the first step in his ‘crisis-management plan.’ The NLT uses the word ‘prayer’: I prayed to the LORD, and He answered me, freeing me from all my fears. David was in great emotional upheaval and fear. He prayed, and suddenly his fears vanished, and he was at peace in the circumstance.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
[God] saved him out of ALL his troubles (Psalm 34:6).
Verse 6 reveals why David sought the Lord. He considered himself a ‘poor man.’ The phrase ‘poor man’ does not mean that he had no material goods, but rather that he lacked the resources needed to rescue himself. He chose to trust in the only One who is powerful enough to deliver him—the Lord God Almighty.
Remember that God did not spare David from the dangerous and fearful troubles connected with his narrow escape from death. David spent ten very difficult years running from Saul, and trouble seemed to be his constant companion as King. Psalm 34:19 states, A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all. God does not deliver us from having trouble; He rescues us from each and every one of our experiences with trouble when we follow David’s ‘crisis-management plan.’
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
and He delivers them (Psalm 34:7).
David knew that his loving, powerful Lord was present with him. The word ‘encamps’ in verse 7 means ‘to pitch a tent, or to abide with.’1 Note that the angel of the Lord encamps around us, or encircles those who fear Him.2 ‘Fear’ in this context means reverent awe toward God. An attitude of reverent awe is another step in David’s ‘crisis-management plan.’
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8).
In Psalm 34:8, David used two human senses, taste and see, to express his desire for his hearers to perceive and experience the goodness of God. Those who seek Him for refuge in a time of trouble gain more than ‘knowledge.’ Those who fear the Lord and take refuge in Him actually experience His deliverance and blessing. Responding to troubles as David did helps us grow to know God on a deeper level. I like to envision myself camping with the Lord in His tent.
Fear the LORD, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing (Psalm 34:9-10).
Verses 9-10 state that those who ‘fear’ or ‘hold the Lord in awesome reverence’ lack nothing. It is significant that David puts emphasis on the ‘goodness’ of God in this Psalm. James 1:17 states that Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. Those who fear and seek the Lord will receive everything that is ‘good’ for them. At the same time, remember that what we think is good may differ from what God knows is good for us. Sometimes the ‘lack’ of something we think we need is actually good for us.
In Papua New Guinea, morning finally came. My husband arranged to borrow a car, and we took our son to the hospital in the town nearby. By the time we arrived, his face was white and his lips a bluish color. He was laboring to breathe. The hospital was not like what we were used to, to say the least, but the Australian doctors on duty went into immediate action. My husband and I both prayed silently as we watched the doctors work frantically over our son. He was not responding. Again, deep in my heart, I sought the Lord. I felt helpless. “Lord,” I said, totally denying my frantic fearful emotions, “I trust you. My son is yours!” What came next was completely unexpected: quiet tears of relief. An uncommon peace swept over me. My husband placed his arms around me and spoke softly, “Honey, God is with us.” So we waited and prayed for God’s will for our son.
Gradually his body began to respond to medication and oxygen. I will never forget those pink lips and the twinkle in his eyes when we left the hospital. Great praise for God’s sovereignty and lovingkindness flooded our souls.
Though God delivers us from all our troubles when we seek and reverence Him, He does not always choose to remove our affliction completely. Our son still has asthma. David still ran from Saul for many years after the incident recorded in Psalm 34. At times in a crisis, God chooses to take a loved one to be with Him—the ultimate deliverance. Nevertheless, we have confidence that God is always good.
David’s Crisis Management Plan:
- Pray, seek refuge in the LORD.
- Revere the LORD.
- Trust in God alone.
- Seekers are delivered from ALL their fears and troubles.
- The angel of the LORD encamps around those who revere Him.
- Those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
David’s Response to his experience with trouble was PRAISE:
I will extol the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together (Psalm 34:1-3).
1Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary of the Old Testament
2The angel of the Lord in the Old Testament was believed to be the preincarnate Son of God. An occurrence of the Son of God’s appearing in human form is called a theophany. Theophanies ceased with the incarnation of our Lord.