Difficulty and Fruitfulness

Difficulty and Fruitfulness

If you willingly carry the cross, it will carry you, and will bring you to the end which you seek, even where shall be the end of suffering — though not in this world.
☧ Thomas a’ Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, II.vii.5

• It may seem confusing that David, already anointed as king and distinguished in battle (1 Sam. 16 & 17), has to go on the run from Saul. Imagine what it must have been like in David’s own head. He knows the great prophet Samuel has come to his family home to anoint him in the presence of his resentful older brothers (echoes of Joseph). He knows that while serving as a mere war-time lunch-runner for said brothers, he has defeated the enemy’s champion in hand-to-hand combat. Yet after such auspicious beginnings, he finds himself running like a dog, not to mention living like one, in cave after cave. That spiritual journey is laid out in Ps. 57, “They set a snare for my steps; my soul was bowed down” (v.6).

• And yet, this man, with such a pathetic start, becomes the great king of Israel and, far more than any other individual, the heart and soul of worship for Jews and Christians in the millennia that follow his lifetime.

• John Donne, the greatest of the 17th-cent. English metaphysical poets, once wrote: “Therefore, that he may raise, the Lord casts down.” That’s Donne’s expression of, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). David, the type and forefather of Christ, was cast down that he might rise and bear fruit, just as Jesus, the seed that fell into the earth and died, made himself nothing that he might raise many (Php. 2:5-11).

• This has always been God’s way with those he loves. He casts down in order to raise. When you find yourself in the midst of loss or failure, be wary of categorizing it as destitution or abandonment by God. We tend to become either discouraged (faithless) or indignant (proud) at the first sign of abasement or lowering. But, in fact, we are being prepared for fruitfulness. Yes, he disciplines those he loves (Deut. 8:5; Heb. 12:6), but in time that discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (v.11). He has a vision for your destitution.

• At some level, David knew all this, even in the midst of his flight from Saul, which is how Psalm 57 came to be written. And the Lord, painting on a much larger canvas, knew that David’s psalm of trust would one day lift the rest of us. His words become ours:

I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

• Whatever you’re going through, you don’t want to look back and realize you were pounding your fists on God’s chest the entire time, accusing him rather than trusting him. He knows what he’s doing with you and, in season, it will yield a harvest of righteousness.