Fight or Flight: Is There a Better Way?

by Andy Wood on July 12, 2016

in Ability, Enlarging Your Capacity, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Freedom


Have you ever fantasized about growing wings and flying away to escape the unending stress or tension?

Have you found yourself wishing recently that you could manage to make it through one day without hearing a barrage of angry or critical words or feeling like you must be the only one in the crowd who just doesn’t “get it” (whatever “it” is)?

Have you been avoiding trips to the doctor under the guise that no news is good news, even though you know you’re not as energetic as you used to be?

What’s your latest reminder that the next time the bell tolls – even randomly – your number may be up?

Have you been channel surfing lately for “I Love Lucy” or “Andy Griffith” reruns, just so your TV can remember what it’s like not to hear about another reason to be afraid or another example of urban violence?

Oh, and what’s the latest on the scandal? You know… the same ol’ same ol’ about the latest hero or public figure headed to court or the hall of public shame because they just weren’t who we thought they were?

Are you tired of being lied to by your so-called leaders and oppressed by those in charge?

Are you still reeling from the betrayal of a friend or bitter because someone you trusted and needed abused that trust?

Are you angry enough to hurt somebody yourself?  Do people keep asking you what’s the matter and you keep pretending you’re just tired or something stupid like that?

What if I were to tell you that everything I just described didn’t come from CNN or Fox News, but from an ancient poem – a psalm from the Bible?  (Well, there are no “I Love Lucy” or “Andy Griffith” reruns or TVs in the Bible, but pretty much everything else is there.)

In Psalm 55, David writes about the things that caused him stress, and boy did he have a laundry list.  Verbal attacks. Feeling alienated from the crowd. Physical weakness.  The possibility of death. Fear. Urban violence. Iniquity and mischief in the culture, and oppression and deceit in places of power. Closer to home, the betrayal of a friend and the bitterness and rage that accompanies that.

Sounds pretty relevant, doesn’t it?

Those Natural Responses

Remember in psych class when you learned about the fight-or-flight response? In the old illustration of the cave man and the sabre-tooth tiger, the cave man sees the beast and immediately his blood pressure rises, his respiration and pulse increase, his brain pumps adrenaline into his blood stream and his muscles contract – all ready for action to do one of two things – fight for his life or run for the hills.

Turns out something similar was going on as David faced his sabre-tooth tigers.

Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest!
I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.
How quickly I would escape—far from this wild storm of hatred (Psalm 55:6-8, NLT).

Can you relate? I sure can. Wouldn’t it be nice just to escape it all? To go somewhere where birds remember how to sing and life feels safe and sane and interesting and affirming?

Fly away, David! Find those wings. Just remember to take me with you when you go.

Of course, the other response is also clear.

Let death stalk my enemies; let the grave swallow them alive (Psalm 55:15, NLT).

Now there’s some good Sermon-on-the-Mount material.  “God… Zap ‘em!  Kill ‘em all!”  But he was transparent with his feelings and God was (and is) big enough to take them.

Is Anything Wrong With Those Natural Responses?

That all depends.  God actually created you with the physical, mental, and emotional potential to protect yourself against sources of stress. But the cave man and tiger ultimately came to some sort of resolution, and relatively quickly.  Somewhere along the way, however, we have created a culture where the stress never lets up.  And that means that our fight-or-flight signals are constantly being triggered.

And that, my friend, can be a recipe for disaster.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with a desire to retreat from a stressful situation.  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with a desire to assert or protect yourself in a stressful situation.  But in a world in which we seem to be mainlining adrenaline, there are four dangers to watch out for:

  1. When escape becomes the goal, rather than a way to reach the goal.

Retreats and re-creation have their place. You need rest, and you’ll certainly die without it. But when the supreme goal of your life becomes running away from whatever is causing you anxiety or pain, you’re bankrupting your life on multiple fronts.

  1. When the natural responses lead to bondage.

Life is filled with natural and man-made stress-reducers.  Food, for example. Chemicals like drugs and alcohol. Sex. Friendships. Physical activity such as exercise. Entertainment.  But any or all of those stress-reducers, rather than leading to freedom, can actually produce bondage.  Remember this: You are always the servant of whatever or whoever it is you look to for peace.

  1. When fight-or-flight results in regrettable behavior.

It’s one thing to be authentic and transparent. It’s another thing to be a jackass.  It’s one thing to escape. It’s another thing to abdicate and leave people who depend on you hanging in the balance.  It’s one thing to fight against danger or wrong. It’s another thing to fight the people who love you the most.  That leads to…

  1. When you fight people rather than problems.

Sometimes in our stress we push away (and violently at that) the people who love us most or who can most help us.  If you aren’t careful, you will make the innocent in your life pay for the sins of the guilty, and it will be your fault, regardless of where the original stress came from.  Make sure when you have your stinger out that it’s aimed at the source of the problem.

(You didn’t ask for my opinion but I’ll give it anyway. Much of the current rage in our culture has been stoked by this very issue – people in pain pointing their stingers – or guns or tazers or fists or voices – at the innocent because they are unable or unwilling to confront the true source(s) of the problem.  It’s always easier – and more lucrative – to rage on the stage than to face the disgrace.)

Is there a better way?

Allowing for the fact that sometimes you do have to turn and run, and sometimes you do have to stand and fight, yes, there is a better way. Check this out:

Throw your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you.
He will never allow the godly to be upended (Psalm 55:22, NET).

The biggest myth about your stress is that it is your problem alone to solve – and you were never intended to carry that kind of weight alone.  Your stress is evidence of your need for God. And it is evidence that He has a way of sustaining you that you can’t get any other way.

But what does “throwing your burden on the Lord” actually mean?  I suggest it means doing what David actually did in this psalm.  First, he honestly told the Lord exactly how he felt. Even the part about wishing some people were dead. He didn’t tell a bunch of other people – he told God. He asked the Lord to carry his burden of pain, offense, rage, fear, anxiety and weakness.

Second, David developed a strategy for praying. He crafted a spiritual war room strategy.  “Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur,” he says, “and He will hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17).  What’s your plan for when the going gets hard? How will you map out your burden-casting strategy for prayer?

Third, David verbalized his confidence in the Lord.  “He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me,” he says (v. 18).  If you want to cast your burden on the Lord, speak confidently about who God is and what He is doing.


So… Is it right to flee?  Is it right to fight?

Yes! When you flee to God, and let Him do your fighting for you.

Whatever your sources of stress and pressure, let them be an invitation to intimacy with God. There you will find that your sources of stressing can lead to your source of blessing.

Martha Orlando July 12, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Amazing comfort and inspiration, Andy! We do need to flee to God and let Him fight those battles for us.
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Daddy’s on the Loose!

Richard Mitchell July 21, 2016 at 10:03 pm

A most interesting read!
I thoroughly enjoyed from the start to finish!
Extremely helpful yet practical!
Yes, there is HOPE and a BETTER way to deal, manage or cope with our STRESS in and through God’s help in our burdened lives!
Run to God!
Richard Mitchell

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