But the king covered his face, and the king cried out with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 19:4)
We last left David in 2 Samuel 18 – full of anguish over the death of his rebellious son Absalom. Into chapter 19, we see that the anguish continued. What he said in chapter 18 he continued to say in chapter 19: “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!” David could not stop singing this song. Later in 2 Samuel 19 God sent Joab to pull David out of this rut and Joab did it in his typically straightforward manner. We can take David’s dilemma as an example of how to deal with grief and feelings.
First, we can say that David’s problem was that he was bound by a lack of perspective. David saw that Absalom was dead and in some way David shared responsibility (mostly through his poor parenting and his own sins being visited on Absalom). That was true and worthy of grief; but it was not the only thing to see in this situation.
David’s problem was not in what he knew – he knew about Absalom’s tragic death and David’s own role in it. David’s problem was in what he forgot:
– David forgot that God was still in control
– David forgot that a great victory was won
– David forgot that David had many loyal supporters
– David forgot that God showed great grace and mercy to David
When someone is overcome in tragedy or sorrow often we can say that the problem is not in what they know, but in what they forget. David needed a more accurate perspective – to see the good along with the bad.
Secondly, at this point David was mastered by his feelings. God never intended feelings to master us. Certainly, God is not against feelings – not at all. Many Christians lack deep and profound feeling and experience in their walk with God. At the same time, feelings were never meant to set the agenda for our life.
There is an important and legitimate place for feelings and grief in our life before God. We see that God is a Being of feelings – we see this in the life of Jesus, who perfectly represented God the Father to us. Jesus was a man who showed emotion – see passages such as Mark 3:5, Luke 10:21 and 19:41, or John 11:35.
When feelings set the agenda of our life it is possible for us to become selfish about them. We may begin to live a self-centered life, focused on how we feel at any given moment. We might also resent others for not “fixing” our feelings, and making us feel better at any given moment.
This week, ask God to help you see the whole picture of your life. You may be given over to grief by what you see – yet the reality that you do not yet see might change your perspective. Then ask God to help you to put feelings into the proper perspective, to give them the proper place in your life before Him.
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David’s weekly devotional is also translated into German.
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