King David is probably my favorite character in the Bible, and I am looking forward to meeting him someday. There are so many things I want to ask him, like what was it like to have his music cause evil to flee from King Saul, what was it like to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel and freely, exuberantly dance his joy in doing so, and just how did he become “a man after God’s own heart, save in the matter with Bathsheba?” I have a strong feeling that David never set out to have his notable triumphs as well as failings become familiar to millions, nor his musings as a shepherd timelessly inspire when he said “I will fear no evil.” However, I am more than glad that his story has been preserved for me, and that I can, have and will draw strength from it.
I must confess, I am not always so good at “fearing no evil.” I see evil in the world and it scares me. I feel helpless to stop it, and at times am tempted to just hide. We are currently in a time where there is much to inspire fear—our nation has lost its moorings, our enemies want to behead us, and we could be facing an outbreak of a genuine plague. If someone were to unleash an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) bomb within our borders, in a moment we would be plunged into literal darkness and thrown back several centuries.
On the surface, when I look at David’s life, it would be easy to assume that because he was a warrior of warriors, he just never felt fear. I don’t think that’s the case, in fact I know it’s not. He admits that at times he felt it, and said, “What times I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” How does that square with “I will fear no evil?” How can you say on the one hand, “I will fear no evil,” and then say, “what times I am afraid?”
The first and most obvious answer is transparency. David was just a guy like you and me. He was extraordinary, but he clearly wasn’t perfect, and one of his strengths was his willingness to admit his failings. His fights with God are recorded for all of us to see, and I think his honesty with God was his safety. Do I think he possessed uncommon courage? I do. Do I think he knew terror? I do, and I am comfortable with the idea that he knew both, but never allowed fear to win.
The second thing is that he lived in the power of choice. Emotions hit him, clearly. And they were strong ones. He was accused, betrayed, chased, judged and nearly killed on more than one occasion, and it was by people who were supposed to love him. Personally, I think when he talks about fearing no evil, he is saying, “I choose to fear no evil, and I am going to resist it until the fear is gone.”
How did he resist it until his emotions matched his choice? Well, a great deal of it, I think, was through worship. He learned to freely access the realm where the mess around him, and his inability to convince his father-in-law or his son that he was a good guy simply didn’t matter anymore. He chose to believe someone else’s opinion of him mattered more, and that was his Heavenly Father’s. He chose to worship and declare God’s goodness anyway, no matter how ugly his circumstances were. He came through it, perhaps only barely, when he said, “For I would have fainted unless I believed I would see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Let us choose to discover what he discovered. This is certainly no time to faint.