This Father’s Day I’ve been reflecting on King David and a few other fathers of the Bible that longed for the Father. Men whose names are taught for generations as stories that inspire courage, humility, strength, leadership and oftentimes what not to do. Our cultures and languages have changed, industry and civilizations have evolved, but the dysfunctions of family and the lessons of the bible stories remain the same.
Psalm 71 is the story of a man in a furnace of trouble who cried out in his distress while the Lord was driving by, so to speak, and raced in to rescue him — as He does for all who call on His name. Who wrote this psalm? We usually find the author’s name inscribed at the top of the psalm. But Psalm 71 is interesting: the author has chosen to remain anonymous. Yet I feel confident it was written by David, who is giving us a kind of sequel to Psalm 70. And there’s a fascinating and quite tragic story to be found in the background if we peek behind the curtains.
There was a time in King David’s life when one of his sons, Adonijah, tried to usurp his throne. David had promised the title to another of his sons, Solomon. So political turmoil and family warfare were all entangled (see 1 Kings 1–2). Some scholars feel that David wrote these psalms during that heartrending time of family discord. Can you imagine it? Here is elderly King David, nearing the end of his life. He has brought the nation of Israel to its greatest peak of power and stability. In the midst of building a dynasty, he has already survived a previous family insurrection caused by his son Absalom. Now his son Adonijah is attempting to steal what has been promised to Solomon. The whole nightmare seems to be recurring. When you read about David’s life, you realize you’ve only thought you had family turmoil.
David’s aging heart was burdened with a deep grief you and I are probably incapable of beginning to comprehend. Had he served God so long for such a reward as this? David knew he’d made serious mistakes in his younger years, and he understood that his sin would bring consequences to be worked out in turmoil for both his family and his kingdom. Even so, this was a heavy price for a father who loved his sons and the godly nation that had been entrusted to him. No pain exceeds that of an anguished and heartbroken parent, and David was suffering to the core of his being.
David must have been tortured by recriminating doubts. Maybe his son was right; maybe he’d “lost a step.” What goes through the mind of a seasoned and spiritual king at such a moment? We know the answer, because David opened the pages of his blood-smeared, tear-drenched old journal and inscribed the immortal words of Psalm 63. Thousands of years later, we can look over his sad, slumped shoulders and peer into his journal and into his very soul.
How can we identify with an extraordinary life like that of David? You’ve probably never lived a life on the run because of an angry king, but an angry boss may have kept you on the run. You may never have been the object of a political coup, but you may have felt the pinch of younger coworkers pushing you off the corporate ladder. You may never have fled your home to protect yourself from your own child, but you may have felt the heartbreak of children who failed to honor their father and mother as they grew older — or, recently, you have likely been forced to remain in your home for weeks and months when you much preferred to go out.
In moments like those, you’ve found yourself in deserts that had no sand, deserts of personal desolation, spiritual despondency, and emotional depression. When that moment of ordeal arrives, we’re almost never prepared in body, mind, or spirit.
Psalm 63 begins with David isolated in the desert. His first impulse is to call out for God to come and comfort him. The king in exile feels a gaping hole in his heart that only God can fill. His family has deserted him, his subjects have rejected him, and he has come to a place where his only refuge, his sole consolation, is his Creator.
We know what it’s like to feel emotionally bankrupt. There in the desert, David looks across the parched wasteland and sees it as a mirror of his own soul. And what can he offer in such a situation other than the response of any child who has stumbled and injured himself? David cries out to his Father to come, pick him up, and care for his hurts.
David points us to the fact that body, mind, and spirit are interdependent. When the spirit is ill, the body will be affected. His longing for refreshment and revival and recovery are physical and spiritual. He feels the pain of spiritual and emotional distress in every ligament and nerve of his body, and that pain seeks a spiritual solution — it drives him to long for God in his soul.
In the midst of pain and struggle or strength and victory, we must find encouragement in this story. Father’s carry a heavy burden, but you don’t have to carry it alone. Our Father is begging you to do the same as David did in these passages: seek him wholeheartedly, let him guide you through whatever season of life you find yourself in and allow him to care for you like the Father his is.
The above is an adaptation of Dr. Jeremiah’s newly released book, “Shelter in God.”
Dr. David Jeremiah is among the best known Christian leaders in the world. He serves as senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California and is the founder and host of Turning Point. Turning Point‘s 30-minute radio program is heard on more than 2,200 radio stations daily. A New York Times bestselling author and Gold Medallion winner, he has written more than fifty books.