During the summer months our minds are often preoccupied with thoughts of vacation, flying away to some exotic country or to a quiet refuge away from the daily grind. In Psalm 55 we hear the well-known line, “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” (6) This is something to which most of us can relate.
But the situation the writer is fleeing is not just a grueling work week. His situation is life threatening, “My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me, fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” (4-5) He is experiencing betrayal by a former friend, “It is not an enemy who taunts—then I could bear it … But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.” (12-13) Nothing cuts quite so sharp as treachery by a friend.
Not only is his situation desperate, but the city is also beset by enemies, “for I see violence and strife in the city.” (9b) The situation is more comparable to that of immigrant children fleeing drugs and violence in Central America than our desire for a vacation.
So what is a person to do when confronted by such violence, besides dreaming of flying away? The writer calls upon God to destroy his enemies. While calling down curses on your enemy may provide momentary relief, it is no permanent solution to problems, any more than running away. In the end he places his trust in his God, where it belongs. “But I call upon God; and the Lord will save me,” (16) he says then, based on his own experience of God, he instructs others, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (22) Where human friendship may be fickle, God is steadfast. The psalm ends with a statement of trust, “But I will trust in you.” (23b)
Chances are we are not experiencing the troubles of the writer of this psalm. Our own problems pale in comparison. Yet all can relate to the desire to fly away to a place of refuge at times. The struggles of daily life can seem overwhelming and we long for a quiet place where we can escape our troubles, if only momentarily.
There is a place available to all of us, a place of refuge, resting in our Lord’s arms. Running away from our problems may provide momentary relief but then we have to return to the same situation, or one that may have grown worse. But when we run to God, God may give us insights into the problems and strength we didn’t know we had in order to go back renewed and more able to deal with whatever challenges life throws at us.
So this summer, as you dream of vacations, remember to spend some time with our God. As the psalmist discovered, “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” Put your trust in your God. When you feel like flying away, fly to God who will gently embrace you, sustain you and restore you.
How has God helped you through problems in your own life? I would love to hear your stories!