Seeking Rest by Flight
Psalm 55:6-8
And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.…

This disposition to seek rest from our burdens by flight is as prevalent to-day as in the days of the psalmist. We still try to fly away from our difficulties instead of seeking the strength of God to sustain them, and I want to ask your attention to one or two ways in which this flight is sometimes made. Here, then, is a man whose business affairs are becoming involved. His resources are being more and more impoverished. He feels as though he is being gradually and relentlessly closed in as by an iron wall. Night comes into his day, and the iron feet of anxiety crush all the joy out of his life. His cares accumulate until they become a huge burden, which lies like a cold, heavy stone upon his heart. This goes on for weeks, perhaps months. The worry gnaws away at his heart without ceasing, and makes him depressed, and nervous, and irritable, unpleasant to his family, disagreeable to his friends, and obnoxious to himself. At length when the burden is intolerable, he cries in the bitterness of his soul, "O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest." Now, that is an evil moment, a moment fraught with infinite peril, when a man begins to think of flying away from his burden. For in these matters thought is so speedily followed by purpose, and purpose so speedily followed by action, that even thought itself must be regarded as pregnant with tremendous issues. When a man begins to think of flying away from his burden, depend upon it he will soon make an attempt to fly. And how is the attempt very frequently made? A vast number of men try to get away from the burden of their worries and cares by an excessive indulgence in drink. Again and again have I heard men say, "I could bear it no longer; the burden was crushing me, and so I took to drink." And so the man uses drink as a kind of opiate. He takes that mind of his, which is "heated hot with burning fears," and he plunges it in forgetfulness by means of drink. He takes to drink as a means of flight from care. Let me say, then, in the first place, that it is a most cowardly and selfish resource. It is cowardly if for no other reason than that it means a showing of the white feather; but it is cowardly for the additional reason that when a man takes to drink he deliberately sells his birthright, and throws away the prerogatives of a glorious manhood. He takes his pearls — the pearl of reason, the pearl of conscience, the pearl of will — and casts them before the swine of passion and lust. But it is more than cowardly, it is intensely selfish. It means that the man considers himself and himself alone. When a man flees to drink to gain rest from his burden, he does so at the expense of putting an extra burden upon somebody else. But it is more than cowardly and selfish; to fly to drink is useless. The man says, "I will take to drink and be at rest." Does he find rest? He says, "I will bury my sorrow." Where? "In drink." Is the grave deep enough? Drink is the poorest cemetery I know in which to bury one's care. Everything you bury in drink has a speedy resurrection. Drink cannot hold it. Bury sorrow in drink, and it will soon rise again from its grave. But more than that — the sorrow reappears, stronger and heavier; the grave of drink in which you thought to bury it has only nursed and fattened it, and there it is wilder than ever! You fled for rest, and behold fresh trouble! Is it not, as that old herdsman, Amos, said, nearly three thousand years ago, "As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him"? Let me now take another example. Hero is a man whose burden does not arise from an involved business, or from the worry which comes from an impoverished purse. It is not the care of the world which weighs upon him, but the burden of an outraged conscience. He carries a load of guilt which weighs upon his heart like lead. His burden depresses him, and produces lowness and insipidity of life. And so, while some men carry a load of care, this man carries a load of remorse. And this remorse seems to sit between the shoulders, as Dante says it does in hell, and with its sharp teeth is ever gnawing at the guilty man's life. At length the burden of guilt becomes intolerable, and the man cries out in his heart, "O for the wings of a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest." Here again is a perilous moment when a man begins to think of flying away from his burden. The thought will be followed by an attempt. The man who thinks of flying away from the gnawings of his conscience will soon be trying to fly away. And how is the attempt very frequently made? A vast number of people seek to get away from the burden of their conscience by an excessive indulgence in pleasure. They fly away on the wings of pleasure to be at rest! Now let us look at this. A man who has violated his conscience soon finds ordinary pleasures tame and tasteless. There is nothing like a sense of guilt for destroying the taste for the quieter pleasures of life. And so men seek refuge from guilt in sensational and distracting enjoyments. Revelry is sought as a means of gaining quietness and peace. When Macbeth had murdered Duncan, and Banquo had also been despatched, Lady Macbeth arranged a feast, that in company and revelry, and jest and song, the murderer might fly from the cries of his own conscience. And how did it succeed? In the very midst of the feast, when the merry-making was at its height, when jest and jollity freely flowed, Macbeth gave a great start, and cried, "Never shake thy gory locks at me." What did he see? The ghost of the one he had murdered! The deed of yesterday intruded into the feast, and even in the very heart of pleasure painted before him the ghost of the one he had slain. Oh, these ghosts! these ghosts of yesterday, these ghosts of past sins, how they will glide into our revelries and change them into bitterness and pain! If we only knew how to get away from the ghost of guilt! I tell thee, conscience-burdened man, if thou take the wings of pleasure and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea, even there the ghost shall meet thee, the burden will remain. "Be sure your sin will find you out;" the ghost will rise before you in the very midst of the revelry and dance. Oh, men and women who feel the burden of guilt, don't seek to fly away from it. Bring it, and cast it upon the Lord. Tell Him that you have heard that with Him there is mercy and forgiveness and plenteousness of grace, and that you kneel at His feet if perchance there may be healing and strengthening for you. He will sustain you. Remember that He has, in untold number, relieved men and women whose consciences were as restless as yours, and whose guilt was as burdensome as yours, and He has imparted to them His own calm. He will likewise say to thee, "Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven thee." That forgiveness of God loosens the guilt which holds a man in bonds, just as the sun breaks up an ice-blocked river and lets the boats go free.

(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.

WEB: I said, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! Then I would fly away, and be at rest.

Seeking Rest
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