GOD DIDN’T GIVE US WINGS FOR A REASON!
The Psalmist once cried out to God for wings so that he could fly away from all his troubles. How many of us have joined the Psalmist in his prayer and added, “And me too Lord!” Yet God didn’t answer his prayer and never answers this for us either. As Francis Thompson found, running away from your problems only unleashes certain hounds who inevitably set off in pursuit and track us down. Wherever a person goes, they are often surprised to find their troubles have gone ahead of them. I think God didn’t give us wings for a reason.
Legend has it that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided to play a joke on five of his friends. He sent a telegram to each of them one night with the message- “All is known. Flee immediately.” That night, all five of friends fled England for France! What secrets do we each hide hoping that we will never be found out? How often do we run from our problems only to find them awaiting for us?
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
THE TWO TYPES OF TROUBLE
We all know that troubles come in two varieties: the ones we create and the ones we didn’t. In both cases it is a test of our character (who we really are) when are confronted by them. Recently I had the painful experience of public humiliation. In that moment, all eyes were on me. I felt the Psalmist’s prayer of Psalm 55 pounding in my heart. I knew that in the next few moments my true character would be revealed to everyone in the room. It’s in moments like this that I am challenged to apply the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the Philippians when he told them to have the mind or attitude of the humiliated Christ-
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross!
The opening chapters of the Book on human history reveals that mankind’s most natural impulse when confronted by our own failure is to: i) hide, and if this doesn’t work, then: ii) blame.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden… He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Genesis 3:8, 11-13
THE DEFAULT RESPONSE TO TROUBLE
The antidote to blame is humility which enables us to accept responsibility. This especially applies to the kind of trouble which we contribute to. It is in this light that Psalms 51 and 32 offer us such hope. The author of these Psalms had failed terribly. It was the kind of failure that today would have not only meant the worst kind of public shaming, but also life in prison. David had resorted to the default human response to terrible failure and tried hide and cover it up. But as usual, this strategy always, always, always, makes the problems from failure far worse. Before he get fall back onto option #2, Nathan the Prophet removed it from him.
¶ Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
Second Samuel 12:7-9
I imagine that David’s heart would have been pounding in his chest, his head would have begun to feel hotter, his mind would have been racing. What could he do now? The result of this moment was Psalm 51 where he made confession before God and, since it is a public Psalm, he also made confession before those he had let down. This is God’s remedy for our failure. David would teach this principle to his young son Solomon –
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
It’s doubtful that Solomon ever truly appreciated the riches of the wisdom that his father gave him in that moment, but then again, Solomon was never blessed with a Nathan in his life (he was the only king of Israel not to have a prophet minister to him).
When David confessed his sin to God, acknowledge the injury he had caused to the Name of God, sought to make restitution to those he had hurt, and surrendered his life afresh to God, he experienced the joy of God’s cleansing forgiveness.
¶ Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
¶ For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
¶ I acknowledged my sin to You,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
WHAT FRANCIS THOMPSON FOUND
I mentioned Francis Thompson earlier. He was an extremely bright young man with a very promising future as a medical student. But he stumbled. Something happened. He doesn’t tell us what. But we do know that after Medical School, he moved from Scotland to England and lived on the streets of London where he became an opium addict. In his worst moments his life hung in the balance and he was cared for by a kind-hearted prostitute. In his good moments he was one of English literature’s finest poets. G.K. Chesterton described him as “the greatest poetic energy since Browning.“[*] He wrote a poem called The Hounds Of Heaven. He describes the wayward being pursued by God through His ‘hounds’ (the ministry of the church, the ministrations of our conscience, and the mediation of the Holy Spirit). No matter where the wayward attempts to flee from these troubling hounds, he cannot. Like the hounds of old used then by hunters, God has a way of pursuing and bringing the wayward to their knees and summoning them to experience what King David described as the greatest blessing available to a man – the blessing of having our sins forgiven by God.
The other day I met with such a blessed person. They had stumbled. They had fled and hid. Things only got worse for them. The internal turmoil they had been experiencing had impacted their physical well-being. We spoke. They described their repentance and shared empathy for those they had hurt (a sign of genuine repentance). Many of the troubles they now faced had not vanished, but it was now obvious that they would now be dealing with their various challenges with the strength of a clean heart and the assurance of God’s presence.
Maybe God has used you as one of His ‘hounds’? The Prophet Nathan was King’s David’s ‘hound’. If you are, chances you yourself were once ‘hounded’ by someone who cared enough to chase you down. The Apostle Paul spoke to the hounds of Galatia and gave them some sombre exhortations which godly hounds today should take careful note of as they seek to clip the wings of their wayward brothers and sisters who would rather fly away from their troubles than deal with them –
¶ Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
While the old saying, “If God wanted man to fly He would have given him wings!” is wrong in so many ways, when it comes to dealing with failure and strained relationships, it’s very true. You may not be able to fly away from your troubles (Psalm 55), and even though you may want to take the next best alternative (running and hiding) there is a grace available to you from God that can make you stronger, cleaner, taller (Psalm 32), if you confess, repent, make restitution, and seek restoration (Psalm 51). I think God didn’t give us wings for a reason.
Ps Andrew Corbett