We often think that plane crashes are catastrophic and unsurvivable events. Thanks to movies and 24/7 news channels, most of us think that all plane crashes end in a free fall from 30,000ft and a terrifying fireball.
It might surprise you to learn that most plane crashes are actually survivable. In a recent survey of air crash data, experts showed that 96% of all plane crashes were survivable.
Apparently, the key to surviving a plane crash is to have an escape plan. The same survey showed that 40% of people who die in a plane crash could have survived if they had taken action.
By now you’re probably wondering what air crash statistics have to do with Psalm 38. Well, let me make the connection for you.
In this Psalm we read about a man whose life has come crashing down in flames. He is suffering because of some kind of terrible personal failure. He has sinned and his guilt and shame are crushing him.
The man in Psalm 38 is the Israelite king, David. If you’re not familiar with David’s life, the Bible tells us that …
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife
This short verse points us to the reasons David’s life had come off the rails. He had an affair with Uriah’s wife. Then he had Uriah murdered so he could cover it up. That’s when David’s life came crashing down in a fireball from 30,000ft!
The point I want to draw from this is that an air-crash and a life-crash have a few things in common. They are both devastating. They are something that we want to avoid – but the good news is that both are also survivable.
Now, you may have never had an affair like David, but all sin, no matter how insignificant, has a devastating effect on our spiritual life.
And just as the experts point out about surviving a plane crash, if you want to survive a life-crash, you have to have a plan and you have to put that plan into action.
Psalm 38 maps out a plan for surviving any kind of personal failure, large or small. It gives us an escape plan after our lives have crashed. In fact Psalm 38 outlines the three of the most common plans people use for recovering from personal failure.
1) ONE PLAN IS TO FOCUS ON OURSELVES, BUT THIS IS A MISTAKE (38:1-8).
One plan that people follow to recover from personal failure is to try and fix themselves.
You’ve heard it said before, “Just dig deeper,” or “try harder.”
But surely this plan is doomed from the start? If we knew the road out of our failure, then we wouldn’t have taken the road into it in the first place!
Friends, it’s a mistake to depend on ourselves after a personal failure. That road only leads to even greater disappointment.
This is not a new problem. King David had this same experience. He writes …
… my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly” (Psalm 38:3b-5)
It is entirely David’s fault that he is suffering. It was his own foolishness that led to his personal failure.
David is portrayed in Psalm 38 as a mere frail human. He is diseased. He experiences searing pain, fever and inflammation. He had festering wounds that smelled foul and looked ugly. His heart wasn’t functioning properly and he was even growing blind. He is frail and feeble.
The point is, David is only a human. He is a mere mortal. He is not God. And neither are we. We are not God. Illness, guilt, shame and even mental torment are a reminder of this fact.
Friends, human weakness proves that we are not God. Personal failure is designed to awaken our conscience to the fact that we are not God. We cannot fix ourselves, and we were never meant to.
Sometimes I see in the church, that various Christians are happy to point a judgemental finger at people who are trapped in sin. But we need to remember that without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit at work in a person’s life, no-one has the strength to overcome sin.
The Bible says …
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
The pain of living a godless life is bad enough without the church passing judgement as well. Our role as the church is not to point out human frailty. The role of the church is to point people to Jesus; to point people to the awesome power of his Spirit who helps us overcome our sin.