“Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:1-2 NASB).
A childhood church youth leader of mine once took a group of us boys on a field trip into some local caves to explore God’s creation from an underground perspective. Although many decades have eroded exact details of that subterranean trek, one part of it remains firmly intact. Up until that point the best field trip that public school had given us was a guided tour of the town’s fire department. Therefore, this caving expedition would not only easily exceed that previous highlight but also help us apply what we had learned in church–far beyond the four walls of a typical 1960’s Sunday School classroom. Just the ticket for restless grade school boys searching for adventure. We were set to plunge headlong into daylight’s darkness. Artificial light in hand and ready to conquer any barriers that stood in our way—even those walls that must have seemed to be closing in on us, at times.
Our exploration would take us into caverns formed by violent volcanic activity. And through an entry portal located halfway around the globe from the limestone caves dotting biblical landscapes. Places familiar to David, who penned Psalm 61. Two types of caves differing geologically. Yet, similarly offering some valuable life lessons.
We followed our leader into the cave’s entrance undoubtedly with brave anticipation. Plenty of room inside. This was going to be easy! However, youthful exuberance can fade quickly when challenges arise, such as the one that loomed ahead among the dimly lit shadows, once the going got tougher. And it did! A tighter fit, as well. All too soon, the cave’s ceiling and narrowing walls surrounded us until walking turned into crawling ever so carefully over the lava rock surfaces beneath us until we could go no further.
That is unless a person was willing to “thread” themselves through the eye of a seemingly needle-sized opening between the ceiling and floor of our rocky confines. I don’t recall thinking about David’s search for refuge in the cave of Adullam at that very moment (as recorded in 1 Samuel and recalled by David in Psalm 57 and 142). Instead, refuge would be sought from a different enemy: an intense fear of being stuck literally between solid rock above me and below me, unable to squeeze through to safety. Life’s obstacles can quickly turn into prayer opportunities!
But instead of being forever trapped inside that otherwise nondescript cave located many miles from the suddenly comparatively spacious comfort of our church’s classroom, God showed His goodness, mercy, lovingkindness and faithfulness to me that day so long ago. And, thankfully it wouldn’t be the last time either. Likewise, can you recall key turning point moments, when God got your undivided attention during one of life’s difficult “hard place” times?
Jesus once compared the “broad gate” entrance to destruction with its alternative: “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matthew 7:14). Thinking back to that time when carefree walking turned into careful crawling, reminds me of that stark contrast offered by Jesus. The narrow way of following Him is an eternal journey packed with life-changing lessons to be learned as we grow in our faith.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Building such assurance and certainty about unseen hope in God and His promises takes time, trusting, and testing. All three “building blocks” must rest upon the cornerstone of Christ Jesus who is our foundation for building upon. Listening and learning from Christ through prayerful study and godly application of His word can work wonders in speeding up that process of drawing closer to the Lord, walking by obedient faith and following Him at His pace.
Sounds easy, like entering a cave’s dimly lighted entrance, perhaps? Only to discover that with each step of faith taken deeper into that cave’s hidden surprises, reliance upon God can amazingly increase exponentially in relation to its dimensions. But we don’t have to wait until those frightening moments arrive. David didn’t always follow God at God’s pace. David survived his enemy’s pursuit, cave refuge and eventually found God’s way to ultimate safety, despite taking a rather bumpy circuitous route, at times. Yet, Paul identified David as a man who God described as “a man after My heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). We can learn from God’s high praise.
Hebrews Chapter 11 defines “faith” and exemplifies it. Some may view the familiar roll call of names and events as some type of biblical Hall of Fame. However, it’s almost certain that each person mentioned therein—including David would scoff at that notion and instantly defer any honor and praise to the Author and Perfecter of faith: Jesus, Himself. Although David is named, his exploits of faith are detailed elsewhere throughout Scripture.
This beloved chapter concludes with anonymous examples of “others”, who just like those identified, displayed courageous faith in the midst of their horrific circumstances. Some were martyred while others were left “…wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” Their promised reward of faith was deferred (Hebrews 11:32-40). But whether named or not, each one trusted God “by faith” in their time of testing.
God is so faithful, patient and trustworthy. He has shown us these loving attributes repeatedly. Again, can you recall any standout moments when God graciously intervened in your life for your good and to accomplish His perfect will? David described God as his rock in whom he took refuge, his fortress, his deliverer and said, “I call upon the LORD, “who is worthy to be praised…” (2 Samuel 22:1-4). We too, can pray and praise God for what we know He has done. Consider also how many things God may have done for you that only He knows about, His heaven-kept secrets. For such unknowns, it’s sufficient just to rest assured in knowing how much God loves you!
David asked the LORD, “Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?” (Psalm 139:7). Thankfully nowhere! Thinking back again to my first spelunking experience, I wasn’t alone in that cave. We had a trusted, experienced leader to follow, we had each other for encouraging help and most of all, we had God, the Rock of safety above us the entire time that we felt very hard surfaces below us, squeezed somewhere in that narrow passage way of a faith-building life lesson. Likewise, your experiences as a believer can often prove to be lived out somewhere between the Rock, that David wrote about in the Bible… and the many hard places of this life.
As we live and learn through our own individual spiritual field trip triumphs and failures, may we also encourage one another through the narrowest of ways and prayerfully, together become a people after God’s own heart.
“The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in Thee. Trust in the LORD forever, For in God the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock” (Isaiah 26:3-4).
–Alan Summers, GBC Elder
All Scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), 1975 edition