David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” ~ I Samuel 17:45-47
I wish I could say I had never been to a funeral. If I could say such a thing, it would mean I had never lost a loved one or a friend. It would mean neither of the grandparents I grew up knowing would have lost their battles with cancer. It would mean my dad could still take a picture with all of his siblings. It would mean I haven’t lost friends due to the recklessness of other or the ravages of disease. It would mean kids I know would still be able to hug parents they were forced to say good bye to before they were done growing up. But most of all, it would mean I would never have seen a coffin small enough to be the perfect size for a toddler. If you’ve ever seen one, you know how heart wrenching they are.
I don’t tell the story of that little girl because it isn’t my story to tell. But I mention it because this week’s song was written when another family faced the very real likelihood of needing their own toddler sized coffin. Jaxon, who was just two years old at the time, had been infected with e-coli bacteria and it had caused serious, life-threatening complications in his young body. His parents, who are part of the Bethel worship family, texted their close friends and family asking them to pray because the doctors had just told them they didn’t expect their little boy to make it through the night. Jaxon’s dad Joel would later this moment saying, “There’s a time when you’ve said every prayer you can say and you don’t have the strength to praise and worship anymore.”
One of those friends felt as if a giant of unbelief was standing in front of him, taunting him. For this friend it was a moment where they were faced with a choice: give into the giant of unbelief in front of him or do battle with the giant. Inspired by the story of David and Goliath, he went to battle the best way he knew how. He broke out in praise and worship of God’s victory over death.
Jaxon’s story has a happy ending. After a month spent in the hospital fighting to live, he was able to come home and continues being a little boy, continues growing up, continues to learn more about the God who miraculously healed him. I know not every story has the happy ending. Like I said before, I’ve been to a funeral featuring a toddler sized coffin. I can’t even begin to imagine what parents who face the death of a young child are feeling. That is a giant I have not faced. And to be honest, I don’t know if I would fare well in that battle.
I do know we all will have those moments in life where we will find ourselves in a battle between belief and unbelief. A battle where we will choose to lean into God and declare Him the victor over death or choose to walk away wondering how He could even allow such pain to continue to exist in our world. We all face moments where we have to acknowledge that God is infinitely greater than we are and we can never hope to understand and see all God does. We all face moments where we have to trust God has a plan to redeem the pain and suffering.
The nation of Israel had one of those moments when facing the literal giant of Goliath. Found in 1 Samuel 17, the story begins with the Israelites and Philistines once again battling each other. Each army has a stronghold on opposing hilltops and they have largely come to a standstill. War has always been a bloody business. And at a certain point, every leader has to acknowledge that to keep fighting will decimate their army and/or their nation to such a point where they cannot recover. The commanders of these armies have reached that point. To go on would mean an entire generation of men being sacrificed on the battlefield instead of going home to marry, have children, and raise the next generation of farmers, tradesmen, and yes, soldiers. The solution? To have one warrior from each army battle it out to the death. The winner of the hand to hand, one on one battle would decide which army won and which army accepted defeat.
It seems like a smart bet. Risk one life to save hundreds and potentially thousands. Then they met the man whom they would do battle with.
Goliath is believed to have stood around nine feet, six inches tall. His armor is believed to weigh about 125 pounds and his spear alone is believed to weigh around 15 pounds. His is a big dude. He is not someone you want to meet in a dark alley at night. And while volunteering for a one on one fight might sound good in theory, the reality of it most likely resulting in your death is a very different proposition to consider. No one in the Israelite army was willing to volunteer and so the stalemate continued for 40 days.
David’s brothers were among the soldiers and when they did not return promptly from battle as expected, his father sent David to them with to get an update and deliver some food to their unit. As he is talking to his brothers he hears the taunts of Goliath. Instead of seeing the giant, he sees someone who dares to taunt his God and his faith. He demands to know why this disgrace is allowed to continue and is told to focus on the giant. He responds with reminding them of the correct place to focus, on God. He doesn’t defeat Goliath with spear or sword. He strikes him down with 5 smooth stones and a sling. He defeats Goliath with the skill and knowledge God gave him to protect his sheep.
Perhaps the giant you’re facing is grief having lost a loved one or a dear friend. Maybe your giant is addiction to something which is harming you physically and/or relationally. Maybe your giant is a mental health issue which prevents you from experiencing the abundant life God has called you to. Whatever your giant may be, the story of David and Goliath calls us to focus less on the giant and more on our God who has the power to defeat any giant which stands in our path.
It’s the moment of shifting focus this week’s song captures. Jaxon’s illness wasn’t sudden, he kept getting sicker and sicker as the doctor’s struggled to help him. The night he wasn’t supposed to survive wasn’t the first time family and friends prayed for healing, they had been praying all along. But there was a shift in focus. Raise a Hallelujah focuses not on the desperate situation before them, but on the reality that regardless of the outcome, God still has the absolute power to defeat death and crush His enemies under his feet.
Grief is a very real, very hard thing for many people to walk through. One day things will seem fine and the next it feels like you just experienced that loss a few moments ago. If you are having trouble moving forward through grief, please contact your local church for help. They can point you to support groups and qualified counselors. No matter your loss, you are not alone.
If you know someone who has lost a family member or close friend in the last 1 to 2 years, take the time to reach out to them to see how they are doing. Especially in this time of social distancing, those who are struggling with grief can easily find themselves feeling isolated and alone.
What miracle are you praying for today? Is your focus the problem or the power of God? Regardless of the answer, how are you seeing God work through the situation?