Godliness can be confusing at times. We often identify this characteristic in other people, but it can be a bit confusing when thinking about oneself. How exactly do we become godly or become like those godly people we admire? Is it a change in our activities? A change in our media consumption? A Bible study we need to attend?
What exactly will create the godliness that we desire?
Whenever I’m faced with a question like this, I like to find a character in the Bible to study in order to find my answers. For this particular question, I’m going to choose David.
What do we know about David?
We know a ton about the life of David! His youth, adulthood, and old age are all extensively written for us in Scripture. There are writings about him as a single man and as a married man. We also get a view into his conduct in war and peace, in holiness and in sin. His friendships, allies, and enemies are all played out for us in a first-hand narrative. At some point in the story of David, we can all picture ourselves in his shoes.
But we don’t just know his outward actions.
In addition to the story of David’s life, we also get an extensive view of David’s prayers during those hard and celebratory situations in his life. There are seventy-three Psalms that give us a glimpse into the inner life of a man God labeled as “a man after God’s own heart.”
While his outward actions and stories are exciting to read, his inward prayer life gives us some hints about what it looks like to let God transform you from the inside out.
Let’s take a glimpse at one of David’s prayers in the midst of hard circumstances.
1 Samuel 19
In this chapter of scripture, David learns Saul desires to kill him. 1 Samuel 19:10-12 states,
“Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear. As the spear struck the wall, David eluded Saul, ran away, and escaped that night. Saul sent agents to David’s house to watch for him and kill him in the morning. But his wife Michal warned David, “If you don’t escape tonight, you will be dead tomorrow!” So she lowered David from the window, and he fled and escaped.”
David has faithfully served in the king’s household. He has done his best to submit to the king and do whatever King Saul asked of him. Nonetheless, David is now being hunted by the very man he served.
This is the story of David’s life in this period of time. Can you relate to the betrayal he must have felt? The injustice and unfair treatment from a “boss” who has no reason to single you out, yet does anyway?
The fear that was overwhelming? The desperation and depression as he snuck from his own house not knowing where he was running to or what he would find outside his window?
We can only imagine the inner turmoil David must have felt at this moment in his life. We’ve felt those inner turmoil moments as well. But we don’t often get a glimpse into the inner life of a person as they are walking through such desperate and tumultuous circumstances.
The Inner Life:
As David is running for his life from Saul, he cries out to God. He cries out for rescue while honestly laying his frustration before the Lord.
Rescue me from my enemies, my God; protect me from those who rise up against me. Rescue me from evildoers, and save me from men of bloodshed. Because look, Lord, they set an ambush for me. Powerful men attack me, but not because of any sin or rebellion of mine. For no fault of mine, they run and take up a position. Awake to help me, and take notice. Lord God of Armies, you are the God of Israel. Rise up to punish all the nations; do not show favor to any wicked traitors. (Psalm 59:1-5)
Did you notice his frustration? “Not because of any sin or rebellion of mine. For no fault of mine, they …take up a position”.
It’s important to notice David isn’t sugar coating his emotions, thoughts, or feelings here. He’s laying everything out before the Lord.
Then he goes on to say
They return at evening, snarling like dogs and prowling around the city. Look, they spew from their mouths—sharp words from their lips.“For who,” they say, “will hear?” But you laugh at them, Lord; you ridicule all the nations. I will keep watch for you, my strength, because God is my stronghold. My faithful God will come to meet me; God will let me look down on my adversaries.(Psalm 59:6-10)
In the midst of his anger at the situation, David states out loud some truths about God. Life is unfair. These people are horrible. BUT you are still God, and YOU are still my stronghold.
It’s important to notice in the midst of his anger and stressful complaining to God, David stated God’s character and attributes. He put out there the truth of who God is even when his circumstances didn’t make him feel like those truths were actually true.
Then David goes on to pray…
Do not kill them; otherwise, my people will forget. By your power, make them homeless wanderers and bring them down, Lord, our shield. For the sin of their mouths and the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride. They utter curses and lies. Consume them in fury; consume them until they are gone. Then people will know throughout the earth that God rules over Jacob (Psalm 59:11-13)
David does not mince words here. He wants these men who are after him to pay. There is no sugar coating his desires, but rather honestly lays them at God’s feet. David also tries to convince God that destroying these people would be for God’s good. I think we can all relate to that sentiment right?!! It’s for YOUR good God that you punish those who are making my life miserable.
This honesty is important, but what is even more important is the words that come after this section in his prayer.
But I will sing of your strength and will joyfully proclaim your faithful love in the morning. For you have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble. To you, my strength, I sing praises, because God is my stronghold— my faithful God. (Psalm 59:16-17)
David honestly cries out to God for rescue. He is vulnerable with his frustration and anger. The desired outcome he thinks is best is laid at God’s feet. But at the end of the day, David leaves the whole circumstance in God’s hand. “For you have been a stronghold for me…”
The punishment of the men will not bring David a refuge. Only God is his refuge and stronghold.
He was honest. He was forthright. He was truthful.
Then he was reverent
As we seek an inward transformation and desire God to change us to be more like him, often we need to start with our prayer life. Do you tend to sugar coat your prayers and make them less angry and more acceptable? Are you willing to state the most vulnerable emotions and feelings in your soul and lay them all out before God allowing his holiness to wash over them?
This vulnerability is not something we are used to doing, but it is necessary as we seek to let God change us. Today, mimic David in your prayer life and honestly share your thoughts, feelings, and emotions with God. Then end your time reminding yourself and praising God for who he is, regardless of the circumstances in your life.
You might also enjoy:
- How to Walk Through Spiritual Weariness
- How to Start Walking With God
- Experiencing God Daily: 3 easy steps you can take
- The Spiritual Disciplines: Way to pursue personal godliness