Today's passage: I Samuel 27
I have never known anyone in the Witness Protection Program. Actually, I can't really say that, because if the program really works, I may know many people in it, but their identities are so well concealed, that I would never know.
Imagine a lifetime of always living as someone else. Changing your name, the way you look, inventing a new history for yourself. It would seem odd. You wouldn't be able to visit your extended family, because you could not put them at risk in revealing where you are. If you had children, you would somehow have to re-program their memories. You would have to tell them that lying is okay in this case, because it was for your own protection. But you wouldn't call it lying, you would call it pretending. I'm not being critical or judgemental of that, I'm sure it is how I would handle the same situation. You would live in a new house, with new belongings (I'm guessing you would have to leave your old ones behind, because you couldn't risk rental truck agencies or movers to not give out your information) in a new neighborhood in a different city or state. You would always be reviewing your story, trying to keep every detail straight so that you would not stumble when asked. When enrolling in school or establishing a bank account, you would produce government issued fake identification. Not even the picture would be you because your hair color and eye color would have altered with the help of Clairol and tinted contact lenses. It would be as if you had vanished off the planet. And that is the strategy. Still, you would be alive. You might have to go through this routine every couple months or every couple years, just in case you were being tracked by the very people from which you were hiding. Can you sense how discouraged someone going through this might get? How could you ever really establish friendships when your whole life was made up? How could you ever really trust anybody to keep your secret? You couldn't. You would just keep moving and medicate yourself for the daily anxiety attacks you experience for fear of being discovered. Maybe I have it all wrong, and protected witnesses lead perfectly normal, average, boring lives.
David could have used a Witness Protection Program. Every time he looked over his shoulder, Saul and his soldiers were right behind him. David manages to stay a step ahead, but he is tired of this nomadic life. He is ready to settle down. He has a family after all, and although it is not clear whether his children have been born, this was still no life for the two wives who traveled with him. I don't know how many years David has spent in the wilderness (I guess I could find that out, I'm just too lazy to search it out right now) but wouldn't even a week of wandering seem taxing? I don't think I could manage living that lifestyle for a couple days, let alone a couple years. I imagine David thought in the beginning, this would be a temporary situation. Who would think that he would be running from Saul for months on end? Who wouldn't get discouraged under the circumstances? I would. At first, David probably had all the faith in the world, and believed implicitly that God would deliver him. As time passes, and the situation has not resolved, David questions whether he will ever be established on Israel's throne, because he is not sure he will ever make it out of the wilderness.
That's something to think about. This world is my wilderness. We face problems every day, and for some people it seems those problems never resolve. Through no fault of their own, they are faced with trial upon trial. God has allowed it. I don't refer to me in this scenario, because as I have said before, I don't feel like I've had to face anything. But I know people who seem to be confronted with problems day after day. They were convinced God would have intervened by now. They had faith that God would handle the situation. And He will. But what if He doesn't do anything about it this side of Heaven? Then what? At the end of this chapter, while David is a fugitive in Philistia, he attacks some of the enemy nations that have for so long bothered Israel, including the Amalekites that Saul so badly fails to destroy. David is accomplishing something now, that will help him in later years when God installs him as king. It may seem that David's life has been wasted, but God is training David. The trials we face are the training ground for something greater in our lives. Even if that something greater is simply to throw our crowns at Christ's feet. I know it can be discouraging. I know that the day-to-day that develops into the year-to-year lends itself to defeat. David was ready to quit. He is certain that no matter how much space he puts between himself and Saul, one day the hour glass will have poured its last grain and Saul will be victorious. Of course, we know the end of the story and can tell David it is not true. God will deliver him. God will deliver you. I can't tell you when. I can't tell you how. I can't look at your trial and answer, well, only for this long. I wish I could. Some trials are for a lifetime. Why? I can't answer that either.
When faced with having to flee my home, my family, every thing I hold dear to escape certain death from an enemy, I would wonder, how long? If I were forced to adopt an alias to be able to live the rest of my life, I don't know if I could do that, because I would never know when it was to end. Sometimes the greatest part of the trial is not knowing when the trial will have an ending. If I were in the Witness Protection Program, I might never get out. My greatest struggle would be the seeming eternity of it. And yet, that is how God teaches us to wait on Him. We are so bad at waiting. We have to wait for Him to say, "Okay, now. Now, I will take this from you." For some of us, that may be right away. For some of us, that may be after years of praying and struggling. And for some of us, it may not be until we leave this life. Is there a formula to shorten the waiting period? No. Because God works something different in all of our lives, and only when we look back, can we see what He has accomplished. Only I know that when He put that particular problem in my path, it produced this fruit. Maybe nobody else could see it. But I could. Nobody can see the inner workings of my spirit. That is between me and God. That is between you and God. David had times of discouragement. Read the Psalms and you can see that. But David endured. He did not give up. He still believed that God would help him, even though the help did not come right away.
Protected witnesses enroll in the program so they can have a life. Even if that life is not what they desired. It would seem that only the exteriors have been changed, but anybody going through something like that knows they have changed on the inside too. No trial leaves us unchanged, so maybe the outward transformation is not so far fetched after all. Maybe the name changes, the relocation, the altered appearance only hints at the inner turmoil we experience. We can't divulge how God is working inside us in every instance. We can't always explain how God is changing us from the inside. Our old self doesn't really match who we are anymore anyway. In that case, maybe we are all enrolled in witness protection.