Sometimes, we just need to escape. When the mental or emotional load gets to a certain point, we feel the impulse to watch a DVD or pick up a book that will transport us away to another world and another life. From the gentle romances of Jane Austen to the page-turning adventures of Stevenson or Scott we fly away to some place that is far, far away from our own present reality. We refer to this as “escapism”.
A temporary escape from pressure is not wrong in principle. For example, to go away for a while to somewhere isolated from our difficulties where we can enjoy the beauties of nature is seen even in the life of Jesus (Mk.6:31-32) Just as our bodies cannot labour continuously without relief, neither can our minds, and so if do not have some place of escape, we eventually break down. The God who created us also ordained that weekly Sabbath rest which Jesus specifically said was “made for man” (Mk.2:27). So the idea of escaping from stress or from sorrows is not wrong. However, let us understand the danger of escaping to the wrong place, for that is like a man who flees from a lion, and meets a bear (Amos 5:19). Let us therefore consider some common means of escape.
First, we may immerse ourselves in art, such as poetry or music. David was a musician who used his harp to quiet the disturbed mind of Saul (I Sam.16:23). Because God has made us musical creatures, it is sometimes true that “music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.” – even our own turbulent heart.
Then, we may read a novel or watch a movie such as we have mentioned, and so long as the content is not biblically immoral, it may not be condemned on that account. But let us be aware that these things are like anaesthetic which takes away the pain, but not the disease; they do nothing to improve our situation. The word “amuse” has it’s roots in Greek, and literally means “no thinking”, and that’s all such amusements can to: to stop us thinking for a while, after which we must take up with out problems where we left off.
A further step down however, are trashy women’s magazines and afternoon soap-operas, which glorify the tawdry and melodramatic. While they certainly provide escape, it is an escape into a world where neurotic, immoral people are held up as glamorous and exciting, and the private lives of the royal family are treated as a peep-show. A Christian’s mind is certainly worthy of higher things!
But at the bottom of the heap are things like pornography, gambling and drunkenness. These are a terrible deception, because to a stressed, unhappy soul, these things do not just distract them as spectators, but involve them personally in a radically different life; a world where the things we long for – intimacy, security, and confidence are promised but never given. They are Satan’s treadmill to which the escapee keeps going back in the hope that this time he or she will find a happy refuge, but they never do.
There are other escape-routes we could mention from eating ice-cream to buying new computer gadgets, but as we’ve seen, at best they bring temporary relief, and at worst, they enslave us. However, there is one other hiding-place for us to escape to when things become all too much for us, and here we find not only relief, but contentment, wisdom, and security which we take back to our difficulties when we face them again. I refer of course, to fleeing to the waiting arms of our God.
David had more stress and trouble than most of us, but the theme of God as his refuge runs right through the Psalms: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” (Ps.46:1-3) These are not the empty words of a religious pretender, but of a man who had found a place to hide. He said, “I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Ps.18:1-2) Can we testify with David that the Lord is the One we escape to, and where we find our peace?
“Come unto me” He says, “And I will give you rest.” (Matt.11:28) Let us therefore be careful where we escape to, and if our escape involves a rose-garden or a Mozart symphony or even a good book, let us thank God for it, but let us not neglect to escape to Him personally, that we might say, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Ps.4:8).