When I was a kid, we did a lot of road trips. In fact, we drove across the country from the Bronx in New York City where I am originally from, to Southern California a couple times back-and-forth when I was really young. Back in those days (GASP!) there were no cell phones, no handheld devices, no GameBoys, and most times the radio didn’t even work when you were out in the middle of nowhere. Think about it … we were driving 2,800 miles in an old station wagon with my sister and me having NO access to technology of any kind. It was 1975 for Pete’s sake. What was an eight-year-old and six-year-old to do?
We did what we did much of the time when we weren’t driving across country. We invented and played games. We played “punch buggy” (technically you could still play it today, but unfortunately, it’s not an app so that renders it completely unlikely you will haha). We also played a game where you deciphered what the clouds looked like. It didn’t really have a name, but basically, we looked at the clouds and tried to imagine what she shape of the clouds represented. It could be a crab, a pumpkin, or any number of other things. The limit was our imagination, which made it unlimited. But the cool thing was, once you saw something in the cloud, you couldn’t look at the cloud in any other way. No matter how you looked at it, you saw it. I used to think, “sheesh, once you see it, you can’t not see it.”
I don’t know much, if anything, about neuroscience so trying to explain the way the images of clouds as interpreted by our brains become seared into our minds essentially for good is beyond me. But something tells me it’s as simple as that … that the images are cataloged in our brains in some way that when we recall the cloud or whatever, the memory location in our brain brings forth the interpretation of the image too. Who knows. But regardless, I think there is a cool parallel as it relates to our faith journeys and the events of life. Psalm 3:1-6 is instructive …
O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.
Every one of us goes through times of challenge and struggle in life. You know, those times when the clouds begin to amass over us, darkening the skies as we look above and posing ominous possibilities. As we see with King David however, when we look at the clouds of our circumstances, we have a choice about how we interpret what we see.
David went through many seasons of trial. He was anointed king while Saul was still reigning and although Saul had embraced David as a member of Saul’s court, Saul began to hate David and hunt David. Even beyond Saul, David at many times had to flee enemies committed to his demise, whether the Philistines or other peoples throughout Israel. King David also had some self-inflicted wounds that brought upon him the clouds of consequence. So one way or the other, David understood bumpy, cloudy journeys. Judging from the way he pours out his heart amidst these circumstances in Psalm 3, despite the challenges he faced, David knew that God was his rescue. He declares, “I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me,” which is not a statement resolving David’s present troubles, it’s a reflection upon prior events through which God delivered David. David had seen it (God’s protection and deliverance before) and is telling us through Psalm 3 that, “once you see it, you can’t not see it.”
How does that work? We actually have an interesting look under the hood of David’s familiarity with God’s protection. It’s reflected in David’s historic battle with the Philistine, Goliath … David was called to the front line of the threat by the giant Philistine, not because David was a warrior, but to deliver food to his brothers when asked by his dad, Jesse. We see David’s line of reasoning in 1 Samuel 17:32-37a:
“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!” “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” 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, 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. 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! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”
I love this! David says, “I’ve seen this before! God has prepared me for this before and has shown me how He will deliver this victory because He’s delivered other victories in the past.” David had peered right into the cloud of danger and doubt and in that He saw God, and let that image burn into his mind and soul. So, every time David saw that cloud of danger and doubt thereafter, He again saw God. In fact, once he saw God, he couldn’t not see God. That’s power! We need that kind of power in our lives, in our clouds of danger and doubt!
How do we see this like David did? Think back to the times when you have looked up at the clouds of hazard and harm and saw God’s provision overcome the cloud. Stare at that cloud, and in it see God … His victory, His rescue, His restoration … let that burn into both your mind and soul and trust that when you look at that cloud again, by His grace and ability He will once again show you the other side. And then you will know, once you see it, you can’t not see it.
Imagine going into battle against sketchy, scary giants and having the confidence of KNOWING that God will deliver you. Why? Because He did before. Because when you look at the cloud of fear, you will see the visual of favor. When you see the cloud of doubt, you will see the visual of delivery. When you see the cloud of brokenness, you will see the visual of breakthrough. Train your eyes and allow the image to burn through into your mind and soul, and once you see it, you can’t not see it.
Soli Deo gloria!