When things work out just perfectly, how do you view the circumstance? Is it coincidence? Fate? Destiny?

I see it as evidence of God weaving everything together in His master plan. That’s what he did for David. Here was a guy coming up in the world. He’d defeated Goliath. He had a place in the king’s court, fortune, a wife, a trusted friend. He was respected.

But then King Saul got worried about him. He decided David was a threat, and in an instant David lost it all: his position, prosperity, partner, peer, pride, and more. He ran for the caves, where he was able to hide from Saul as he waited for God’s timing to make him king instead.

It must have been so hard for David at that point as he waited. He must have felt lonely, afraid, defeated. But despite the difficult situation, God provided for him. 

Rene Schlaepfer wrote about it in his book, Chasing David.

Pooping in a Cave

First of all, the limestone in that region is perfect for building caves. As Rene wrote (pages 78-79):

No one knows just how many caves there are in Israel…in the territory David traveled most frequently, from the Elah Valley down to Beersheva, there are thousands of caves, most unregistered on any database or map. Some are massive. In one, a labyrinth of subterranean passageways stretches for over six miles. If you want to hide, there is probably no better spot on earth than Israel.

Yet despite all these caves, Saul just happened to relieve himself (yes, he needed to poop) in the very one David and his men were hiding in. What were the chances of that? Knowing how many caves there were, it was incredibly unlikely!

David’s men assumed this lucky coincidence was God delivering Saul into David’s hands, but David knew he needed to keep waiting for God’s timing–murdering the king to take the throne wasn’t okay. So David cut off a piece of Saul’s cloak to show him he could have easily defeated him, but didn’t.

Waiting in Caves

So how did David handle waiting in those caves? How did God use that time to prepare him to be king later?

Rene shared four strategies for surviving dark “cave times” based on David’s example.

1. Release your concerns to God.

If you read the Psalms, many of which were written by David as he was in those caves, he doesn’t hold back his frustrations. He writes about being in the depths of despair and all sorts of other strong, negative emotions.

As Rene pointed out, our culture has fallen into “feel-goodism,” the idea that bad feelings should be eliminated or denied. But trying to bury feelings of frustration and sadness leads to more frustration and sadness. Instead, talk to God about it. He can take it.

2. Realize where you are powerless.

Admitting you can’t handle life is the key to receiving support from others and from God. Stop trying to control things you can’t control anyway and crawl into the arms of God until the crisis is over.

3. Relax in God’s loving arms.

Refuge is one of David’s favorite words for God. He uses it over and over throughout the Psalms. Even in the darkness of your cave, he’s still whispering to you, “Beloved.”

4. Remember God has a purpose for you.

David’s life had many failures and false starts. At a young age, Samuel anointed David as the next king. But it didn’t happen for many years. God still had a purpose for David, and that period of waiting ended up making him a better leader.

When your life feels the same, like you’re waiting for so much longer than you expected, be encouraged! God still has a destiny for you. Yes, this time of waiting is hard and frustrating. But He’s using it to prepare you for what He’s planning next. When you look back, you’ll see the “coincidences” that perfectly prepared you for what’s at hand.

My husband’s purpose as a pastor

This is very prevalent in my own life. It’s always been obvious to both my husband and me that he was gifted in ways that would serve a church well. But the paying positions never seemed to work out, so he found ways to use his gifts in our local church while working as a custodian for the local school district. While that job paid the bills, it wasn’t a career he was really able to thrive in.

Several years ago, we started talking about planting (or starting) a church. We were serious enough about it that our church sent us to an assessment on the other side of the country, where church-planting experts watched us for about three days, trying to determine if they thought we would make good church planters, too. 

Although they didn’t recommend us for church planting, they did recommend us to work in an established church. Then the pandemic hit and we got to wait some more. 

While the next two years included a lot of frustration and waiting, looking back I can see God was continuing to prepare us for His plan. And while I still don’t know exactly what God is planning to do through us, now we can see that we’re coming out of the “waiting to be a pastor” cave–he was just hired to be the lead pastor at a nearby church! I’m sure that God will use what we experienced in that period of waiting in ways we couldn’t ever plan for.

Destiny vs. Fate

It’s important to distinguish the difference between God’s destiny for your life and some sort of ambiguous fate or serendipity out there. 

Destiny is, “a predetermined course of events.” The destiny mindset frames life as, “There is a way forward, that God is ultimately in control and is working all things together for an ultimate good according to His plan” (Chasing David, page 95).

Fate is, “the circumstances that befall someone or something.” The fate mindset frames life as, “No matter what you try in life, your fate is sealed…there’s no real progress, no straight timeline leading somewhere good. Everything resets after you, back to zero again, a never-ending circle..there’s no purpose. Only guaranteed doom” (Chasing David, page 94).

The way you understand your purpose makes a huge difference in how you handle those “cave times.” With a destiny mindset, your focus shifts off yourself and onto God. This is the example David set. He’s honest about his trouble and turns his attention to God. Yes, he’s in pain. But he knows God will ultimately work all of it together for good.

Psalm 57 provides an example of this. In verses 4-5, David wrote:

My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

Music Ringing Out in the Caves

Speaking of Psalms–it’s important to remember these were originally songs. 

Music has an amazing ability to lift our spirit or help us work through a hard experience. Isn’t it so reassuring when you come across with lyrics that were exactly what you needed to hear in that moment? Where you feel seen–like someone else understands what you’re experiencing? And the melody soothes you along with the words?

Music You Can Pray

One song that recently did this for me was Still My Soul, Be Still (below). In addition to my husband’s job being up in the air, mine was too. I wasn’t worried about how we’d provide for our family, but I found the uncertainty of what was coming next incredibly stressful. 

Although I’m a natural planner, I can handle some curve balls heading my way. But I felt like I was waiting for the ball to be thrown and I didn’t know if it was going to be a baseball or a hockey puck. I wasn’t sure how to prepare myself, and that stressed me out.

But this song helped me remember I could trust in God’s plan–that He was preparing me so I didn’t need to worry. It turned into a prayer I’d sing throughout the day: “Still my soul. Give me your peace. I know I can trust in you. Give me rest.” Ultimately, God did use that song to reduce my stress level and give me peace while we continued to wait.

When we’re in our caves

Are you in the middle of a cave? Are you waiting on God’s timing, wondering what His purpose is for your life? You’re not alone! 

My prayer is you start to see ways He’s preparing you for what He’s planning next, and that you stay encouraged during those times of uncertainty, frustrating, loneliness, and all those other feelings that accompany dark caves.

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