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While not exactly Goliath, Ramzi was a close substitute.

     Today we visited Lachish (the site of a famous siege by the Assyrian king Sennacherib), Beth Shemesh (associated with Samson), Azekah, the Elah Valley, and the echoic Bell Caves (really cool caves that people would live in to escape from the heat as well as mine limestone). But Azekah and the Elah Valley were definitely my favorite. They are the sites of one of the most well-known, inspiring, pervasive stories in the entire Bible: the story of David and Goliath. When we stopped at Azekah (which overlooks the Valley of Elah), our teachers told us about where the Israelite and Philistine armies likely were gathered and the types of armor and strategy that they used in war during that era. Then, though, they said that we would be going down into the Valley–the site where David and Goliath actually had their famous mêlée–and we would all be gathering stones and borrowing slings to practice with! I honestly felt like a little kid as my friends and I tried to sling rocks into the open field before us (I’ll be honest: we were all pretty terrible), but we all had a great time.

     As I laughed at myself as I struggled to merely load my sling so that it wouldn’t fall off the moment I raised my arm. I was able to throw a few straight ones by the end, but none went more than a few yards—nothing that could kill a man, let alone a man like Goliath who “when [the Israelites] saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid” (1 Samuel 17:24). And, as I think would be natural considering the circumstances, I tried to put myself in David’s shoes. At first, I thought I would be afraid… but then I realized that the comparison really isn’t valid: David would have been, well… let’s just say, better “built up.” In physical stature, yes, but also in his specific preparation. God knew what he was doing when, for most of his life, he put David as lowly shepherd boy. This instilled in David an unshakable faith (at least in his earlier life) in what he was called to do. I marvel at how his reaction contrasts with the hosts of Israel:

“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God…? And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine… Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.  Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:26, 32, 34-37).

What was David’s secret? Merely that he trusted in more than the arm of flesh. Even at the critical testing point, when Goliath was staring down at this “ruddy youth” (v. 43), David’s perspective went clearly further than solely what his natural eyes beheld at that moment. “Said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand” (1 Samuel 17:45-46).

So then I thought about why I don’t always have that kind of confidence all the time. There are probably a lot of reasons, but I think the main ones, at least for me, are two main ones:

1. I am not prepared.
Though I do believe in a God of miracles and that anything is possible, I also believe that we often come up against a circumstance that, because we chose to do other things rather than the best things, we are genuinely not unprepared for. If we had chosen to follow the promptings to do the things we were always “meaning” to do but never “got around to,” I think our options in that circumstance would be very different. Winston Churchill captures my thoughts on this subject most vividly: “To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when his is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents, what a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for that which would be his finest hour.”

2. I put more faith in worldly experience than the promises of God.
I consider myself a thoughtful, reasonable, practical person… But often my trust in reason can cloud my feelings and cause me to discount other, higher considerations. Those who know me can probably tell you how I often analyze situations and try to quantify the benefit/cost ratio for my potential actions…But did David approach his situation like that? No way! If he had, he would not have even considered volunteering himself to fight. There were dozens of perfectly reasonable ways he could have justified not trying! He could have walked away perfectly justified that there was nothing he could do about the situation. But he didn’t. He rose to the occasion and put his faith in God, not in man. And he walked away victorious. “so David prevailed over the Philistine… and when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled” (50-51).

Everyone was shocked. Everyone had thought about things the logical, natural way: there was no way that the Philistine’s champion could be dead at the hands of a little boy. Everyone said it was impossible (and everyone had every reason to think that!). But they turned out to be the ones with illusory thinking: David prevailed in reality. How often do we look at “the facts” and short-sightedly conclude that we are justified in giving up, giving in, or ceasing to try. How different our lives (and happiness level) would be if we remembered more often and trusted (really trusted) the promises of God. What if we remembered the promises of God and really likened them unto ourselves. What if we said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine [replace with your current trial here], that he should defy the armies of the living God [replace with your name, remembering the promises God has given you here]…? Promises like:

Some of you may be shy by nature or consider yourselves inadequate to respond affirmatively to a calling. Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that the Lord will shape the back to bear the burden placed upon it.”
(Thomas S. Monson, “To Learn, to Do, to Be,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 60–62, 67–68)

“If you understand the great plan of happiness and follow it, what goes on in the world will not determine your happiness.” (Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 26; or Ensign, May 1994, 20.)

The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”
(Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 26–28)

“I testify that when the Lord closes one important door in your life, He shows His continuing love and compassion by opening many other compensating doors through your exercise of faith. He will place in your path packets of spiritual sunlight to brighten your way. They often come after the trial has been the greatest, as evidence of the compassion and love of an all-knowing Father. They point the way to greater happiness, more understanding, and strengthen your determination to accept and be obedient to His will.”
(Richard G. Scott, “Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 16)

If our lives and our faith are centered on Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1997], 40).

Now, I don’t pretend to claim that I always keep this perspective, but I do testify that when I have (and there is no spiritual reason not to!), my life has been joy-filled.  Not problem-free, but definitely despair-free.


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With sling in hand, I rush forth to meet… the camera.
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In the Bell Caves near Elah. Way cool place to think. And sing. We sang a lot of hymns which gave them a cool echo effect.
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