At times, it can be overwhelming. That desire to do great things, crushed hopelessly underfoot, trodden into the mud beneath an army of detractors marching against you. Seemingly insurmountable odds and an enemy that looms over you and hurls taunts and discouragements.
Bear with me, heathens, for we are about to delve into an Old Testament tale of victory in the face of overwhelming opposition from all sides. It is a tale thousands of years old, but it has direct parallels in our lives and careers.
David was but a boy when he slew Goliath in the valley. But before he even picked up the first stone to sling at the giant, David had already faced stern repugnance, derision, and attacks on his confidence and abilities. David’s own brother, Eliab, stood idly by while David was the only one who stepped up to fight for what was right. Eliab accused David of acting out of pride and selfishness, though he knew David’s motives were sincere and just. Eliab was jealous and guilty, for he shared the defeatist attitude of the entire Israelite army, in stark contrast to David’s enthusiasm and passion. As my study bible says about Eliab, “He recognizes, but does not comprehend, David’s indomitable spirit.”
Let that last line sink in. Motivated firemen face daily obstacles on their paths to improvement. Some of the worst offenders are our own brothers, who, upon seeing our progress down the path to betterment, attack and belittle anyone who challenges their idleness and complacency. Those motivated individuals stir up feelings of guilt and resentment in others who do not share the same dedication and passion.
After David was berated by his brother, he approached Saul, the king of Israel, and offered to go up against Goliath. Saul’s immediate response was to discredit David’s ability to fight Goliath, claiming that David was just a boy, while Goliath has been a warrior from the time that he was a boy. In reply, David explained that because he was on the side of right and good, he could not lose, and he set out against Goliath with confidence.
David was armed with the knowledge that the fight for good and right is worthy and righteous. Despite his apparent diminutive stature and inexperience in warfare, he knew that good would defeat bad. Our continued struggle in the fire service must be for good, against the bad. We must maintain the mindset that as long as we fight, we will win. Defeatism and negativity surrounded David, as it does many of us today. David was a true leader, and he stepped up despite the discouragement and his apparent shortcomings and weaknesses. He acted because it was the right thing to do.
After David slew Goliath, King Saul became jealous and afraid of David. David was a righteous man, and Saul, at that point, was not. Saul knew that David would be his successor, and tried to have David killed on several occasions. David eventually outsmarted and overthrew Saul as the king of Israel. While the acceptable practices of the day would have allowed David to have Saul executed, David spared Saul. Again, David knew that he was on the side of good, and his victory was secure. Instead of seeking retribution against Saul, he showed him mercy.
The example here is that even when (maybe ESPECIALLY when) you do the right thing, you will face opposition and resistance from those who do not share the same principles and values. Jealousy, guilt, fear, and anger are all stirred in the hearts of some onlookers. They will attempt to bring you down to their level instead of joining you on the climb. They will go behind your back and try to sabotage you. They will fight your progress at every opportunity. Do not let them crush your indomitable spirit, and, when you succeed in the face of it all, resist the urge to retaliate. Show mercy and grace, and continue to set the example for the other Davids in the fire service. In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, when haters do as they are wont to do: Shake it off. Shake it off.