Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles. My enemies shout at me, making loud and wicked threats. They bring trouble on me and angrily hunt me down. … Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! [Psalm 55:1-3,6 (NLT)]
Psalm 55 describes a time in David’s life when he was being attacked by his enemies. Crying out to God, he wished for the wings of a dove so he could escape those who were hunting him down. What is unusual in this psalm is that David’s enemies were not adversaries like Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, or Amalekites; the attack came from “my equal, my companion and close friend.” Commentators tend to place this psalm during the rebellion led by Absalom, David’s son. The friend about whom David speaks probably was Ahithophel. Once David’s trusted counselor, Ahithophel switched his loyalty to Absalom who was attempting to overthrow David’s kingship.
My brother-in-law was the picture of health until he was betrayed, but not by his best friend. His body betrayed him with Parkinson’s disease. Instead of deceit and arrows, he was attacked by muscle rigidity, poor balance, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing and speaking, dizziness, urinary problems, trouble standing and walking, fatigue, irregular blood pressure, depression, and finally mental decline. David eventually defeated his adversary; my brother-in-law did not. He surrendered last year as did my sister the previous year when her body overpowered her with the complications of multiple sclerosis. Rather than a child or friend, their bodies attacked them; even so, David’s words could have been theirs.
As I read David’s psalm this morning, I thought of friends who, like David, wish they could run from their troubles and escape to a safe place where their enemy couldn’t follow. Unfortunately, wherever they run their enemy follows because, as with my brother-in-law and sister, the traitor is their body. Recently, a friend with MS was unable to join my husband for coffee because his legs “wouldn’t cooperate” and he couldn’t get into his car! Two of the men with him at coffee have spouses whose bodies have conspired against them with dementia. Sadly, they are not the only ones we know whose bodies are progressively betraying them. Whether it’s MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, COPD, cancer, the aftereffects of a stroke, or some other incapacitating disorder, David’s words could easily have been written by them or anyone else with a chronic condition.
As much as David wanted to escape his troubles and flee, he couldn’t and, as much as people suffering from a debilitating physical condition would like to escape theirs, it can’t be done either. Rather than fleeing from his situation, however, David called God into it and expressed confidence that the Lord would hear his voice. In the end, his prayer of despair became one of faith. Sure that God would sustain him in his trouble, David submitted the situation to the will of God. When faced with insurmountable trouble, prayer is all we have. For a believer, prayer is all that is needed because we know that God already has saved us!
Heavenly Father, we offer prayers for those who are suffering from debilitating ailments. Fortify their faith in the challenging days they face and reassure them of your presence. Give them courage to face their difficult tomorrows, however many or few they may be. When their battle is over, gently carry them to your heavenly place of rest where pain is no longer experienced and bodies are no longer broken.