The Chaplain's Notebook


I suspect you know the story of David and Goliath. Goliath, a massive Philistine warrior in full armor, spear in hand, is defeated in single combat by a mere boy (and future king), David. With one well-aimed stone flung from a sling…the dreaded giant collapsed. How awesome if we could toss magic rocks at our own problems and watch them go away?

There is more to this story than just bravery. David relied on a greater power to give him victory. How else could one small action make such a huge difference? His words, “Today the Lord shall deliver you into my hand,” (1 Sam 17:64) show how much this young man had faith in something far greater than himself, greater than all of us.

I believe God wants us to learn to combine faith and action, like David. We should find that balance between God’s grace and our own work, which can lead us “onward and upward.” David walked the talk — he acted, picked up a stone, took aim and fired the deadly shot. Could you imagine what would have happened if he had merely bragged, then done nothing. The outcome would likely have been tragic!

Do we try to listen to the “still small voice” of God in our conscience? Perhaps while making big decisions? Perhaps even in our dreams? If so, do we rely too much on God and neglect the work that he calls us to do? For example, by making tough choices, doing what we know is the right thing, even if it is costly or painful?

On the other hand, do we rely too much on our own strength, independence and perhaps stubbornly always doing our own thing without pausing to reflect if it is helping us or helping our world, or without pausing to simply ask for help. Either extreme is risky. The first one can leave us feeling fruitless and frustrated. The second one can leave us full of ourselves, worn out, dispirited, even depressed or feeling defeated. But the middle way, which is the way of cooperation between divine grace and human work, could bring us not only fruitfulness, but, I believe, a deep refreshment and real joy as well. It is an interesting balance, is it not?

We need to humble ourselves and recognize that we are weak. But we also need to believe that we can do great and good things through a greater power, who gives us strength and quiet guidance. The art of “being still and knowing God,” each in our own way, is invaluable to a peace of mind and a well-paced, fulfilling career. But we also need to learn how to leap out of the boat, when we must, into the surging waters of life.

What Goliath are you facing right now? How can you step out in faith, trusting in God’s power as you fling your stone?

How can I contact a chaplain? Chaplains are available at their unit of assignment, or by calling the Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) at (213) 738-3500.