David is one of the most admired men in Scripture. He not only was a great warrior but had a soft heart before the Lord, the combination very attractive. David shows that the faith works. As pragmatists, we want to know the ways of the Lord work.
Though God does not give a formula for success, David reveals his secret in fighting the battles of life in Psalm 27: 3,5: “Though war rise up against me…In the secret place of His tent He will hide me.”
In David’s time, ego, machismo and raw selfish ambition dominated the political landscape. And little has changed in our day against the backdrop of evil and great struggle. The Christian life is an advancing life into uncharted waters, if not against cultural assaults then certainly against the strongholds in our own minds. There is no middle ground; we’re either going forward or backward.
This sounds good, God as the secret place. But how do the dynamics of the secret place work in real life? I used to think, with all the resources of Christ at my disposal, that I could just plow through any lair of wickedness and it would tap out. Just go in raw and exposed and fight any battle, anywhere. Ego preceded thought, hormones ahead of common sense. But a strange thing happened over and again. I would get defeated. I was the one tapping out. I was raw and undeveloped. My heart wasn’t strong enough and there were cracks in the armor of my mind. Evil was grittier than I anticipated with layers, strategies and defense mechanisms I knew little about. The curse is so complex that it affects the smallest of entities. Darkness seemed relentless and almost robotic, never letting up and motivated by revenge. Plowing right in without much understanding or time with the Lord was a prescription for getting shot out of the sky. There was nothing heroic about fighting with a blank heart or having zeal without knowledge.
Like David dismissing the conventional armor for his own preferred method of sling and stone, I didn’t fight well according to how the world does battle. Others were often too strong for me, naturally bigger, had more stature; I couldn’t penetrate the tough hide of bureaucracy, cliques, or red tape. I did everything the world said to do, read all the right books, networked with all the right people, wore the power tie, firm handshake and looked people right in the eye. But it never worked for me; I never got the job. Whether fighting for my sanity, using my spiritual gift in ministry, or doing battle on the ball court, I had to launch into life from the safe place of acceptance.
Over time I learned from David that one penetrates darkness from a position of the safe place. Not just fight from a reckless desire to conquer someone. David revealed in Psalm 16:11, “In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever more.” The secret place of fellowship with the Creator sounded too simple at first. I had a lot of weaknesses and had frequented places where I wasn’t esteemed; I never knew my heart was valuable or that I needed to protect it’s desires. But I found the pleasures of God’s presence worked wonders in healing, sealing the cracks that were missed in childhood, surpassing even the healthiest of my parent’s intentions. I spent time in His tent reprogramming from the cavities I had grooved in doing life wrong, uncrossing tangled wires of lies I had believed, redeeming painful memories with the light of His presence and walking through them again with the hand of the Lord. I found with the Lord’s strength after admitting weakness I would be in the 90 percentile of almost everything I did.
In short I had to spend enough time in His presence to hear good things being said about me from the glorious relationship of the Trinity. Only then had I the good deposit, something to protect, and a mission to carry out. I had to know I was secured in love and acceptance, and that my greatest weapon was a heart fully alive. Otherwise the enemy would find the chinks in the armor of my identity and esteem and exploit them, usually in the form of sabotaging thoughts.
The world tells us to “never say die, never give up.” But that’s only half true. ( There’s barely enough truth in the world to survive on. We need more concentrated forms). The trick is knowing what to surrender to and what not to. We all have to surrender to something, not matter how robotic and mechanical we are. Twila Paris was on to the idea of the safe place in her song “Warrior Is A Child”:
Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
Strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears
They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child
Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I’m amazing
Never face retreat
But they don’t see the enemies
That lay me at His feet
We all need the safe place, memories of love and acceptance that act as wellsprings to get through the tough stuff. Tiger Woods said one time as he reflected on his mental toughness in the face of intense competition: “Sure my parents pushed me to achieve, but I was always accepted. I knew no matter how I performed I was always coming home to love.” (Of course he took pleasures to unhealthy extremes of sensuality and paid a price for it.) But what a great place from which to launch out into a savage world. The safe place is knowing rich relationship under-girds our exploits in menacing circumstances. It’s much easier to achieve out of an abundance of significance than for it. The pressure and anxiety is too great otherwise.
The love David had for the Lord allowed him to launch into life from the safe place. The time they spent together was a continual catharsis from the sludge that built up in a heart well used. That’s the only reason he could say in Psalm 27 “Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear.” For David, the deepest aspects of his soul and existence were secured and sealed from any danger. And it was not circumstantial based. He could be in a beehive of hostile influences and feel secure because the greatest power was for him and accepted him. This mentality allowed him to maneuver without fear and increased his chances of success in battle all the more. In short, he was free to perform.
This is a treatise for recovery, for down time, the time out, being benched in the game of life. Renewing the heart has a significant role in the life of the Christian especially after being shellacked by the world. Admitting weakness to the One who can help is not weak, but extremely biblical. There is nothing glorious about weakness per se, it’s what it can lead to. We need time to learn how to wield the sword of the spirit correctly without cutting the wrong people. We don’t have to engage in the counterfeit arenas of combat for our own pride. We need time to heal so we can live to fight another day. And we’ll know when it’s right to engage again. When we sense our unique contribution and presence in our spheres of influence, it’s usually from the safe place.
David’s soft heart left a long shadow of humility as king Asa, who reigned within a few decades, faced a million man march with an army from Ethiopia. With the enemy approaching and knocking on the doors of Judah, circumstances left him no choice but to trust God. His honesty was a great statement of reality: “Lord there is no one besides thee to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help is O Lord our God, for we trust in Thee, and in Thy name have come up against this multitude.” Then look at what he says, “O Lord, thou art God; let not man prevail against Thee” (II Chronicles 14: 9-11).
I call this my 911 verse. At the time Asa’s heart and life were so closely aligned to the Lord that he felt the assault to his kingdom was an assault on the Lord himself. And the next verse says “The Lord routed the Ethiopians before Asa.” The power of God is best manifested in situations that require courage. David and Asa both fought from their secret weapon- the safe place with the Lord that was cultivated in the down time of the ordinary and routine. Make God your refuge while you can because when disaster strikes there may not be time to draw upon the strength credits stored up for a rainy day. Solomon put it this way, “he who is slack in the day of distress, his strength is limited” (Proverbs 24:10).
Let me leave three suggestions that will give traction to the safe place in your heart:
1.) Write in a journal your deepest and most tender thoughts to God. At first they may drip with bitterness or anger, but let there be some trail of evidence of the real you. Over time you’ll sense the sinful aspects so intricately tangled in the emotions will be jettisoned to God and won’t be the deepest part of you. Even if you’re nursing a grudge, that most tender and sacred part of your identity that seems too precious to let go of, will be replaced by the freedom in Christ.
2.) Take prayer walks and tell God incrementally the issues of the day. I recommend “lonely places” lest anybody hear you and think you fit for the asylum. This is not only great spiritual fitness, but the physical is thrown no extra charge.
3.) Learn to discern what battles to fight. Generally speaking impulses of the flesh are meaningless battles. Living to fight another day is good counsel. But apportioning our strength for the correct battles is a product of the safe place. We don’t have to respond to every sleight, incidence of road rage, or personality conflict with customer service representatives. When we operate from the safe place, even though drenched with weakness, we are strong.
Zechariah reveals God’s offer to get us centered again: “Come to the place of safety, all you prisoners, for there is yet hope! I promise right now, I will repay you two mercies for each of your woes!” (Zechariah 9:12).
Copyright 2010 by Scott Chandler. All rights reserved.