I remember exactly where I was when I felt distressed for the first time. In fact, it occurred during the same season of life when I made my visit to the ER.
My panic came in two waves, which both came as we happened to be in the process of buying a house. The first one hit while we were on our way to the closing. As we traveled, I began to feel a sense of panic that I’d never felt before. This wave of emotion was a panic worse than what hit me when I thought I was having a heart attack.
I was convinced that something tragic was going to happen to me.
I began to think that I wouldn’t be able to make a larger house payment. I was sure I was going to lose my job or my ability to work—and it would be soon. I also thought that I might even die before the first payment.
Yes, the payment was going to be larger, but certainly not large enough to kill anyone! However, when you’re distressed, logical thoughts don’t necessarily occur to you.
As my mind raced, my heart started beating faster and faster. Before long, I literally couldn’t move, so I doubled over. I can’t adequately describe the feeling I had as this panic began to mount. But I saw myself vividly having hardship and sickness, and I knew that death would soon come upon me.
You might laugh and say “Come on—it was only a house closing.” But the stress of the events and process of my life had brought me to this point, and these feelings and emotions were absolutely real. They were also totally new to me, and I didn’t know what to do. I had no doubt that we would not be able to move into our new home and be happy there. I was going to die. Tragedy would strike. It was inevitable.
I felt like a weak little man as I sat there incapacitated. I was inadequate and out of control.
That’s when the second wave hit—like a tsunami. Now I began to fret about the home we were selling. I began to feel that something terrible would happen to the people moving into our old home and they would accuse us of hiding it and sue us. They wouldn’t just sue us; they would take further legal action against us. We’d found out that the buyers were a staunch Muslim family, and I was convinced that they were going to turn this issue into the next Christians versus Muslims Holy War and attack us. I believed that they were going to stalk us and maybe kill us. To make matters worse, they were on their way to the closing table.
I needed to escape and hide somewhere.
As a pastor, I’m often called to counsel men who find themselves in fragile and frightening spots. Although their situations aren’t exactly like mine and the Holy War I was distressed about, their times of distress are every bit as real and intimidating. When this kind of panic comes over you, it can be debilitating and stifling to good judgment and clear thinking.
I find that most of these distressed men are good people. Yet for one reason or another, they find themselves in trouble and believe they have nowhere to go. Many guys stumble at this point. They didn’t have an escape plan and have no idea where to hide and collect their thoughts in a healthy fashion.
When we don’t know where to go, we can easily make the mistake of escaping to a counterfeit sanctuary. We are running to the wrong cave!
David’s Mighty Men?
Someone once said that misery loves company. David had a lot of both! He was attacked relentlessly—pursued and assaulted in every relationship and source of security in his life. He was on the run and looking to hide. However, word got out and 400 men joined him in hiding:
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him (1 Samuel 22:1-2).
These men were certainly not a group of model citizens. Nor were they a finely tuned army, at least not yet. Commentator F.B. Meyer describes them as:
Those who were sorely pressed by misery, poverty, and bitterness of soul…their faces were like the faces of lions…they were swift as roes upon the mountains; but their tempers were probably turbulent and fierce, requiring all the grace and statesmanship of which the young ruler was capable to reduce them to discipline and order.
Regardless of who these men were and why they came to the cave, they were also under assault. We don’t know specifically what assaults they faced. But the effects were equally as imminent and potentially just as lethal:
All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gath- ered around him (1 Samuel 22:2).
Author Eugene Peterson describes these men as:
People whose lives were characterized by debt, distress, and discontent—a congregation of runaways and renegades. It isn’t what I would call the cream of the crop of Israelite society. More like dregs from the barrel. Misfits all, it appears. The people who couldn’t make it in regular society. Rejects. Losers. Dropouts.
Wow, what a group of vagrants these guys were. All 401 of them escaping from a myriad of assaults, each having his own story and coming to the cave for different reasons.
Some probably believed that Yahweh was on David’s side, so an army would amass and dethrone Saul in a mutinous coup. Others might have come as mercenaries. Some wanted women. Others might have been jockeying for a royal position when David became king.
Regardless of their reasons, their stories were different from yours and mine, but in some ways very much the same. The same enemy has been assaulting and attacking men since that fateful day in the Garden. He attacked David through Saul and his death squads. He had specific plans for the 400 others, causing them to run for their lives. Their masculine roles were threatened, and their lives were on the line. Each of them arrived at the cave in some particularly rattled state of being,
I call them the three Ds.
And next week, we’ll take a look at the first D: The State of Distress
EDITOR’S NOTE: Want to learn more about the Three D’s? You can start reading Jeff Voth’s book Cavetime for FREE right here: Cavetime Free Preview or you can pre-order the new book title at: Amazon • Barnes and Noble • Books-A-Million • ChristianBook.com and other fine bookstores!