2020 has almost come to an end. For many, there’s a sigh of relief and a cry of, “Hallelujah!”, thanking the Lord that the year is over. The anticipation of starting afresh in the new year is due to the challenges 2020 left with us. We have dealt with tremendous struggles on a national level that have drastically altered our personal lives. On top of the usual trials one would face without a pandemic, we have an increase of fear in our culture, ruling our thoughts and controlling our behaviors. A level of distrust and skepticism has bred its way into many hearts as people cannot trust the media, the government, or let alone family members as they are excluded from social gatherings. And still, there’s relational friction as churches, small groups, and Bible studies figure out how to meet according to health recommendations while still bridging the gap of relational needs.
As I was preparing for this week’s blog, a phrase was spoken to me by the Holy Spirit – “Between a rock and a hard place.” You might have heard this idiom before. It is defined “as a situation where one is faced with two equally difficult alternatives.” I realized that this expression was spoken concerning 2020, and it does not seem very hopeful. The saying indicates that a person is sandwiched between two unsatisfactory options. I picture someone as ‘stuck’ and having to choose between two equally unpleasant courses of action. Is this really what God is saying?
Actually, there is hope with this message. While you may feel hard-pressed on each side, not knowing which way to turn, the Lord has made another way. Even if both options seem devastating, God has created an opportunity for breakthrough. He alone has a strategy that you cannot see and a way that was previously unknown but will be revealed to you. He is El Shaddai – God Almighty – and He sees the pressures that have mounted against you and have squeezed you in. I believe the phrase ‘between a rock and a hard place’ is given to demonstrate the possibility of God when humanity deems it impossible. While 2020 could be a year you want to forget, the Lord has used this year to prepare you and position you to go beyond the limits of what you can think and take you towards greener pastures of 2021 and beyond.
Let’s dive into a passage of Scripture where we see this happen and the hope that it brings for us.
We begin our study in 1 Samuel 27-30. Up to this point, David has been anointed king of Israel but is not ruling. In fact, he has been running for his life for a few years as the current king, Saul, has been desperately trying to kill him out of jealousy and envy. Although the promise to rule has been given to David, Saul’s continuous pursuit led David to give in to fear and escape to enemy territory – the land of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 27:1-4). David has befriended Achish, son of Maok king of Garth, who allowed him to live in the city of Ziklag. During this time, David and his men would discreetly (and deceitfully) raid towns, including the Amalekites. David did not leave man or woman alive since he thought the prisoners would inform the Philistine rulers of his true intentions. (1 Samuel 27:5-12).
After some time, Achish called upon David to join the Philistine forces to fight against Israel. (1 Samuel 28:1-2). While David and his men were eager to fight, the Philistine commanders did not trust David as he was the one who slew many of their men, including Goliath, and they feared he would turn against them in the fighting. (1 Samuel 29:4-7). And so, David and his men went back to Ziklag to return home. (V. 11).
David is already in a pinch and has made some unwise decisions. First, he quickly forgets that the Lord delivered him twice from Saul’s hands (1 Samuel 24; 26). The promises of God can seem far off and faint when troubles abound. Since David is in a foreign land, he does not have access to the temple to worship as prescribed in the Old Testament. His pagan surroundings do not help his questionable morals as he secretly raids towns, slaughters people, and lies to Achish about his whereabouts. I’d say David is already in a hard place, and he has put himself there.
Here’s where it gets worse. As David and his men reached Ziklag, the Amalekites had raided the town and captured the women, their sons and daughters, and all their possessions. They found Ziklag destroyed by fire. (1 Samuel 30:1-3). Look what happens next:
“When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.” – 1 Samuel 30:3-6a
Can you imagine what that must have felt like for these soldiers? As you get closer to Ziklag, you see smoke in the distance and your worst fear becomes realized as you step foot in the city- your family and your belongings are gone. In the same way you treated your enemies, so they have done unto you as you – you imagine your loved ones as captives soon to be slaughtered. You cry, you weep, you weep some more. Then you look at the man who led you to reside in this foreign nation in the first place – David. It’s his fault! If we didn’t attempt to join the Philistines in battle, we would still have our wives, children, and goods. Bitter thoughts immediately become talking points of stoning David since he got you in this mess.
It’s fair to say at this point, David is in between a rock and a hard place. It was already a difficult place to be in while Saul was chasing David. Now the 600 fighting men who protected David suddenly turn on him? What is he to do? His options are limited, and it doesn’t look hopeful for him.
It’s fair to say at this point that you might be feeling ‘stuck’, not sure where to go or what to do. This year could have brought to the surface emotions, attitudes, and personal issues that collided with the external pressures and changes that were put upon you. That ‘rock and a hard place’ in your life can include…
- The tension of a COVID-19 environment and longing for meaningful relational connections
- The desire to walk in faith but have fear in what other people think
- The internal strain of wanting to find a career that fulfills your calling but need the security of your current job to pay the bills
- The challenge of caring for loved ones and still having time for yourself
- The adjustment to a changing schedule while still trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in the routine
- The relational strain that happens when you are locked indoors together, but you still want to show that you love them
- Providing for your family and the concern of taking care of your elderly parents or grandparents
Of course, you can add other personal concerns that are not included on this list, leaving you stressed, perplexed, or disempowered; it’s that place of trying to figure out where to go and what to do but are unsure since either option seems unfavorable. This year has brought a level of revelation for people to understand where they are and what God wants to do.
I began thinking about my rock and a hard place. That ‘rock’ is the period of waiting that Valerie and I are in. Yes, we are all waiting for the virus to be gone, but additionally, the waiting seems to be amplified. I am waiting for Valerie to be pregnant, and that did not happen in 2020. We are also waiting for a foster child since we signed up earlier in the year – that also did not occur. There are other personal and ministry-related matters I am still waiting for. What made this ‘rock’ more challenging is not only the length of the waiting but the number of things I am waiting for the Lord to answer. The weight can hit me at times, even thinking that God does not hear my prayers.
On the other side, ‘the hard place’ has been busyness. With all of the changes taking place regarding COVID-19, I have been on the frontlines of figuring out how to go to church in a safe manner. I’ve had to partially open, shut down, alter, cancel, re-evaluate, adjust, and plan services in various ways. Thankfully, a team of incredible people has helped me, but this has kept me extremely busy. On top of continuing ministry and leading the young adults has kept me running nonstop, it seems.
So I’m in between this place. The waiting zaps me of my joy. My mind wanders on what I do not have and saddens me at times. The busyness makes me tired. I try to find ways to minister, knowing that it is not meeting everyone where they are at, especially those who cannot meet in person.
Yours is most likely different, but I am certain you feel the pressure on each side of you. As you think through your rock and hard place, don’t let your mind keep you there. I will not, and you cannot! Instead, read the rest of verse 6:
“But David found strength in the Lord his God.”
You see, it’s not looking at one of those inadequate or undesirable options for your answer – God is the solution! It’s not even wishing that your external circumstances would change. Instead, it is looking to the Lord who will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). God is faithful, He is strong, and He is mighty to save you from that what is holding you back!
Although David had backslidden and made some poor choices, he still knew His God. He was a man after God’s own heart. The best part about it is that the Lord strengthened and encouraged David, even if he didn’t deserve it! The grace and mercies of God are so great, all He wants is for us to turn to Him.
This strength David found in God, which could be found in no one else or nothing else, gave him the solution in between that rock and a hard place. David asked Abiathar, the priest, to inquire of the Lord in pursuing the raiding party. The Lord spoke and assured David that he would overtake the Amalekites and succeed in the rescue. (1 Samuel 30:7-8).
When I turn to the Lord in my despair, I am reminded that no season of waiting is wasted. God is doing much now and preparing me for what is next. He does not only have my desires in His hands, but my character to be forged into Christlikeness. If I am hurting in the waiting, I rejoice since I know that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.” (Romans 5:4).
When I turn to the Lord in my wearied state, I am reminded that God is at work even if this season looks different than I imagined. People have grown in tremendous ways and have made decisions to go deeper in their walk with Christ like never before. I am reminded that Jesus’ yoke is ‘easy, and His burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30)- anything short of this is a self-imposed expectation. I am not ‘stuck,’ God is using me, and He has a way. I have my hope in Christ. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5).
Strengthen yourself in the Lord your God. The Father will encourage you and speak words of love to you. Jesus will take all your concerns and will lift them off your shoulders. The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what you should do and how you should do it as you seek the Lord in this specific time. Trust in God! He will not leave you nor forsake you.
My prayer is that you continually find your strength in the Lord God this next year, knowing Him in more extraordinary ways than ever before.
Have a blessed week!