We are going to a dark place ... in a dark time ... to people in a dark and dangerous situation ... trapped for a long time ...

No, I am not talking about 33 miners trapped for more than two months deep underground in Chile — although their rescue was very much on our minds in 2010 as it unfolded in world news and also has been the subject of articles and even a documentary movie.

We are going to the dangerous wilderness of En Gedi ... to a dark cave in the Crags of the Wild Mountain Goats! This is not some "Star Wars" sequel or prequel, but the real-world story of King David and his band of not-so-merry men (1 Samuel 24:1-22). This is a God story given to us to help us navigate our way through some of our darkest times when life is crashing in around us, and we feel hounded by both hell and those who oppose us.

King Saul is hunting David like a wild animal, determined to kill David and his family. David's family is in hiding in a foreign land. David has barely escaped death on several occasions. He is grossly outnumbered. He has feigned madness to escape one difficult occasion and has gotten God's priests killed on another. His men are tired, far from home, hiding out in the roughest of arid mountainous country, living in land suitable only for wild mountain goats.

Then, in a twist of fate, Saul comes into the cave where David and several of his key advisors are hiding. Saul has come in to relieve himself. While Saul is preoccupied, David slinks quietly as a cat, takes Saul's royal robe, and cuts off a corner of the garment to let Saul know that he could have killed him.

David's hardened warriors wanted David to kill Saul, thinking this is the perfect opportunity for David to seize power and gain control of the kingdom. After all, Samuel had already anointed David king. Couldn't David take control of the situation and end all the hiding by killing Saul?

Yet David would not do it! He would not kill Saul, whom he calls God's anointed. His men do not understand. But David chooses honor and grace over brutality and vengeance. Why? What prevented him from taking control of the situation?

First, David refused to become what he hated!

Saul was crazy, unprincipled, a liar, mean, vindictive, ruthless, paranoid, and disobedient to God. David refused to become any of those things. David knew that he could either have his circumstances determine his character or he could reveal his character through his circumstances. He chose to be a person of character through the worst of circumstances!

Second, David chose to let God define his value, not the crowd and certainly not those who oppose him.

David trusted that God would show him to be king when the time was right. He knew that whoever he let determine his value, significance, and purpose would own him. If he let Saul determine those things, Saul would own David even if David killed Saul. The shadow of assassination would hang over David and his kingship all of his life and beyond. If David let his men determine his value, they would own him. They would know his secrets and control his future. And they would learn from David that it was acceptable to resort to drastic measures for self-preservation when in a bind.

Third, David trusted that if he was patient, God would act out of concern for David and for the good of God's people.

Patience is hard. Waiting is difficult, especially when life is incredibly difficult. In many ways, patience is the hardest-won virtue because it requires us to be what we are hoping to become. I don't know how those trapped miners kept their heads and their patience for so long. I don't understand how David could have been patient for so long. And while Isaiah had yet to speak God's great promise, David believed it:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:30-31).

We know David as a man after God's own heart. Let's value the three lessons we learn from David as we seek God's light while caught in the caves, mines, and rough places on the dark side of the mountain. We facing hardship and opposition on the dark side of the mountain; let's...

  1. Choose never to become what we hate.
  2. Choose to have God define our value and not others.
  3. Choose to trust God will act for us if we will be patient and wait for his deliverance.