In the early 1920s, A. A. Milne created one of the most enduring characters in all of children’s literature. The character, first named Mr. Edward Bear, debuted in a 1924 poem titled “Teddy Bear.” Two years later, Mr. Edward Bear reappeared in a storybook bearing his own name, which had been changed to Winnie-the-Pooh. Disney licensed the character in 1961 and dropped the hyphens to give us the lovable bear that we know today.
Though he is somewhat naive and slow-witted, Pooh Bear is the eternal optimist, always finding the best in any given situation. Standing in stark contrast is Pooh Bear’s good friend, Eeyore. Eeyore unfailingly assumes the worst of every circumstance. The Disney version of Eeyore is less caustic and sarcastic than Milne’s, but he nevertheless usually expects to be the victim of some grave misfortune and rarely tries to stop it.
Pooh Bear and Eeyore form wonderfully contrasting extremes. Most of us recognise, at least in theory, that a healthy outlook on life rests somewhere between Pooh Bear and Eeyore. Through the lenses of faith, things are not always as rosy as Pooh Bear might have us believe, but nor are they as bad as Eeyore fears.
One of our God-given responsibilities is to see things as they truly are from God’s perspective. This is essential if we will live with wisdom rather than ignorance.
Psalm 3 gives us some helpful insight in this regard. David honestly evaluated the challenges he faced. “O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.’ Selah” (vv. 1–2). Pooh Bear might have ignored the reality of enemies. Eeyore would have concluded that he was as good as dead anyway and there was no hope. David saw the reality of his situation:
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
Rather than minimising or magnifying his problems, David admitted reality but expressed deep trust in the Lord. This enabled him to respond in faith-filled prayer rather than unbelieving despair: “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah” (vv. 7–8).
Gerald Wilson describes David’s attitude as “an almost eerie sense of confidence and security.” He was realistic about his circumstance but nonetheless confident of God’s sustaining and delivering grace in it.
While the context of David’s troubles was not identical to the challenges that we so often face (the psalm was written, according to its superscription, in the context of Absalom’s coup), the psalm certainly teaches us valuable lessons for our own challenges.
First, it reminds us that the godly are not exempt from trouble. There is no promise of Christians escaping the medical catastrophe or economic meltdown. We face the same challenges as the unbelieving world.
Second, God’s past faithfulness should inform our present confidence. David reminded himself that God had answered his prayers in the past (v. 4), which gave him hope in his current trial. The Pooh Bear-like attitude that frequently attend the beginning of a trial often give way to reality as trials persist. But we need to be careful of Eeyore’s defeatist and hopeless attitude. We have a shield who is able to not only lift our head, but grant deliverance in his time if he chooses.
Third, it reminds us that deliverance is in God’s hands. David’s only hope of deliverance from his conniving son was God. That realisation drove him to prayer. Rather than eeyoring his way to defeatism, he went to God to ask for the deliverance he knew God could provide. While we beg God for sustaining grace in trial, let’s not neglect to at the same time ask him to eradicate our challenges so we can return to some sense of normalcy. That is not Pooh Bear naiveté; it is biblical faith.
Reflect carefully on this psalm as you ask God to teach you the theology of the Hundred Acre Wood.