Lions & Bears

I love when God brings those “Aha” moments where the stories in the Bible suddenly become so relatable and powerful. When we realize that these “stories and ideas” were actually real people that felt and experienced countless undocumented details and emotions within every historical example. The moments when we put skin and bone to a simple sentence in the Bible that represented years of intricate and complicated interactions.

I had one of those moments the other day while thinking about the story of David. Most people know him as the musician shepherd boy that famously defeated the giant-sized, make-an-entire-army-wet-their-chainmail, soldier named Goliath.

Here’s how it went down… Essentially it was Justin Bieber vs. “The Rock”. Two armies, the Israelites and the Philistines, were supposed to send their best fighter out to settle the matter with less blood. The problem was, NONE of the Israelites wanted to smell what The Rock was cookin’…because this guy was massive. In strolls Justin, delivering lunch to the real soldiers, when he realizes they’re all paralyzed in fear. The confident Biebs called the rest of the army a bunch of babies, then grabbed his slingshot and strutted out on the battlefield while humming “Despacito”. With one sniper sling between the eyes, Dwayne fell to the ground with a rock wedged in his skull. Both armies stood with their jaws on the floor. Then a deep voice yelled out from the crowd, “Finnnish himmm!” So the slender little guy walks up to the invincible battle machine and lobs his head off. I don’t care who you are…that’s badass.

Sounds like a cool movie, but not very realistic…how can I possibly apply that to my life? As I was reading the details leading up to this event, one quick passage (that could easily be missed) changed everything for me.

34 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! - 1 Samuel 17:34-36 (NLT)

Wait a minute…what? When a LION or a BEAR comes to steal a lamb from the flock, this kid goes after it, grabs it by the jaw and clubs it to death?? Are you freaking kidding me? He didn’t have a high powered rifle…not even a sword? That’s insane!!

Yet even that experience wasn’t the result of just one moment, perfectly blended with luck and bravery. I couldn’t help but think of those moments that David experienced leading up to the lion victories…put myself in his shoes. Imagine the first time he heard a startling noise and looked up to see a LION lunging at his sheep. Absolutely terror. His heart racing. “What if that thing sees me?? I can’t believe this is happening! Oh Lord, keep me safe! Am I going to die today? Ok, breathe. What if it kills the whole flock? If I somehow survive, am I going to lose my job and all respect? Oh God, what do I do! Help!!”

How many times did he think God had abandoned him and his life would be over? How many times was he paralyzed with fear during an attack? How many sheep were stolen before he chose to be brave and try fighting back? How many deep bite and scratch wounds did he take along the way? How many weeks of healing? How many swings of that club? How many stones did he fire with his sling shot to get THAT good? How many times did he miss?

Years of work. Years of fear. Countless mistakes. Scars and pain. Doubt and uncertainty. Belittling comments and disrespect.

I think I’m starting to understand what it really took for David to defeat a giant and become a king…so much more than a few impressive sentences.

Pain. Perseverance. Grit. Discipline. Bravery. Humility. Trust. Patience.

He faced the same emotions I have…he battled the everyday struggles and the overwhelming attacks, yet God used him to accomplish history-changing things. He became a king. He’s remembered and described as “a man after God’s heart”. It’s so fascinating and inspiring to me.

So what can I learn? Whether we’re “tending the flock” in our mundane jobs or facing giants on behalf of an entire nation, character matters most. We will experience attacks and pain at every stage, but what we do in those moments will determine the impact of our lives. What we choose to do every day in the pastures will prepare us for the battlefield.

Maybe you feel like what you’re doing is boring and doesn’t matter…pick up a slingshot and start practicing. This could be a season where God wants to train you for the next step. Know you’re not alone and your character is never wasted.

Or maybe what you’re going through right now feels like the claws of a lion or the teeth of a bear. Lean into God and fight through the fear…you will make it out the other side! You’ll see that it was all training for even bigger victories in the future. Keep fighting.

And when the time comes, you’ll be standing over a headless Goliath in victory…and everyone will see that God can use a shepherd boy like you to bring a nation to its knees.