For this installment of Psalms Greatest Hits, I will only pull out one small section of this loaded chapter. I invite you to dive into this chapter on your own and explore how it reads within your own experience and framework.
David was the kind of leader who never asserted himself. While king Saul was alive, he never coveted the throne, nor did he ever put out his hand to harm Saul, say anything to undermine him, despite the fact that Saul was chasing him, and plotting to kill him. Leadership is not about “over-powering” the powers around us. It’s about service. The leadership David was stepping into was entirely about influence. By serving people, by seeking humility rather than fame, David won the hearts and affections of the people who in turn, revered him as king following Saul’s death.
A visionary leader always carries a particular burden, namely that of seeing things before others do. Seeing past one’s leaders can be frustrating and can evoke a sense of pride or even resentment. When things don’t align as we hope in our lives, the weight of seeing can feel unbearable. When it is within a person’s heart to serve their leader with the vision they possess, but instead of being received, that vision is not only rejected but punished, it causes the person to question the purpose of such seeing entirely. “Why God do you burden me with an ability to see but without influence to do anything about it?” This is a much more common existential point of pain than we may realize.
That’s the context for this little sliver of today’s Psalm. David is reflecting on what it was like to be crushed by outside forces, along with an internal sense of despair.
“The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.” (Psalm 18:4-6)
David’s faith in the Lord is unquestionable. He believes God is overseeing every detail of his life and that God is loving and good to him. As such he entrusts everything he has to his love of God. That is admirable. We don’t really see much of that in our modern world. When our ability to see goes farther than our leaders, we tend to undermine them somehow, diminish them, puff ourselves up, initiate a coup, or some other prideful act. David waits it out. His trust in the Lord manifests itself as waiting for his time. Until then, he never asserts it.
Hebrew scripture captures this leadership moment in a number of ways. One of my favorites is when a woman seeks children but is barren. Her desire is for children and to mother, but her time hasn’t come.
“God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.” (Genesis 17:19)
“…And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” (Genesis 25:21)
“They rose early in the morning and worshiped before theLord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. “ (1 Samuel 1:19)
If you’ve ever felt like your life was in the pit of despair. If you have ever felt like your plans are constantly being thwarted, delayed, or just don’t seem to be happening. If you are disappointed or frustrated with the leadership who is placed in front of you? Then take a moment and consider that you are in very good company. This is a common human experience. Just look at modern politics. It’s a machine that runs on complainers and hatred.
Also consider that there is so much more going on that may not be visible to you. Perhaps, as we see with these biblical examples, God’s plan is much bigger than yours. Perhaps it includes far more people than you considered. Perhaps the greatest leadership skill each of us could possess is learning to wait for it. To trust the bigger story. To explore the back-story of those whom we think have missed the boat.
May we not puff up with pride and certainty as if we know best. It may be that our vision does go further than those in leadership above us, but their time is theirs, not yours or mine. Perhaps the best we can do, is offer what we see and trust what is unfolding. The pit of despair need not last forever, the chords of death need not entangle us.
May it be enough that God sees. May it be enough that we know God hears.