“Work the Problem?” What King David and Astronauts Have in Common

work-problem-1“At some point everything is going to go south on you. Everything is going to go south and you’re going to say ‘This is it. This is how I end.’ Now you can either accept that or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math, you solve one problem. Then you solve the next one, and then the next and if you solve enough problems you get to come home.” This quote comes from the movie The Martian, where N.A.S.A. astronaut Mark Watney, must survive on Mars after he is stranded by his crew who presumed he was dead.

I read this quote and it made me wonder how close this is to what David did when he escaped *King Achish of Gath, was persecuted by Saul, had to rescue his family from the Amalekites, and then when he had to ensure that he wasn’t accused of King Ishbosheth’s death. In short, David had a lot of nasty scrapes to get out of, not including the dangers he faced in battle, and the challenges his reign later faced. He was a fast thinker, a diplomat and a problem solver and this saved him from an early death. David “worked the problem” and didn’t give up until he found an answer.

Or did he?

Mark Watney was modelled off the experience of real astronauts who like warrior kings, face deadly challenges in the course of a normal day. Commander Chris Hadfield is a former Canadian Space Agency astronaut. He is the first Canadian to walk in space, and the first to command the International Space Station. In his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Chris shares this:

work-problem-2“I’m not terrified, because I’ve been trained, for years, by multiple teams of experts who have helped me to think through how to handle just about every conceivable situation that could occur between launch and landing… In my experience, fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen. When you feel helpless, you’re far more afraid than you would be if you knew the facts… I’ve learned how to push past fear… People tend to think astronauts have the courage of a superhero – or maybe the emotional range of a robot. But in order to stay calm in a high-stress, high-stakes situation, all you really need is knowledge.”

If there is one thing that David has taught me, it’s to disagree with that sentence.

David didn’t rely on his experience and problem solving skills alone, he bought a more powerful risk management party into the equation.

“Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” 1 Samuel 23:4

“David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God. Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”
And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!” 1 Samuel 30:6-8
“After this, David asked the Lord, “Should I move back to one of the towns of Judah?”
“Yes,” the Lord replied.
Then David asked, “Which town should I go to?”
“To Hebron,” the Lord answered.”  2 Samuel 2:1

“So David asked the Lord, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” The Lord replied to David, “Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you…” 2 Samuel 5:19
“…And again David asked the Lord what to do. “Do not attack them straight on,” the Lord replied. “Instead, circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees.”
2 Samuel 5:23

“There was a famine during David’s reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the Lord about it. And the Lord said, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites.” 2 Samuel 21:1

David was smart enough not to rely on his own abilities, but to ask God for guidance and depend on Him as a partner in battle and life. From the history of Isra’el, David knew that God had delivered His people miraculously many times and David wasn’t a conceited high achiever who believed that he didn’t need that same help.

That was the making of David: more than his prowess in battle, his courage, his charisma or his quick wits. He loved God more than his own reputation and if we do the same, we’ll never be lost or hopelessly afraid again.

“The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock!
May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted!
He is the God who pays back those who harm me;
He brings down the nations under me
and delivers me from my enemies.
You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies;
You save me from violent opponents.
For this, O Lord, I will praise You among the nations;
I will sing praises to Your Name.
You give great victories to Your king;
You show unfailing love toYour anointed,
to David and all his descendants forever.” 2 Samuel 22:47-51



Achish: 1 Samuel 21, then again in chapters 27 and 29; Amalekites 1 Samuel 30, death of Ishbosheth 2 Samuel 4.


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