When Your World Falls Apart
David, Friendship, Crisis
For the last several weeks we have been working our way through the story of David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and the aftermath that resulted. This morning we will be looking at the attempt by Absalom, David’s son, to overthrow David as the king of Israel, and focusing on how David responded to that crisis.
Since this story spans several chapters of 2 Samuel, it’s important that we look at the context so we know what’s going on. When last we saw David, his one son, Absalom, had killed his other son, Amnon (because Amnon had raped Absalom’s sister). We read that after murdering his brother, Absalom was in exile for three years.
During Absalom’s exile, David was put in a difficult position. He missed his son, but he didn’t want to condone what Absalom had done. Joab, David’s general, found a way to convince David to invite Absalom back to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, David still could not bring himself to meet with Absalom. For two years, Absalom got the cold shoulder from his father, the king, and it began to irritate him.
So Absalom began to mount a campaign to overthrow his dad. He tried to convince people that David didn’t understand or care about their problems, but that he did—and if they would just make him the king, he’d make everything better (he sounds a lot like modern politicians!) He eventually won enough people to his side that he was prepared to declare himself as the king of Israel. When David heard about this, he was convinced he and his people were in danger so he fled the city, along with his military force and everyone who had been living at the palace except for ten of his concubines, who were to stay behind and “hold down the fort”.
This morning we will be looking at three different aspects of David’s response in this time of trial. Before we begin, though, I want to start with a disclaimer. Some of you may feel like you are in a situation like David, where everything in your world is falling apart—and as we talk about how best to respond in those situations, you may find yourself saying, “It’s easy to give advice when you aren’t in the situation yourself.” You are right; I’m sure there are some of you who are facing situations that I cannot even begin to understand, and as I speak this morning, I realize any advice I give could sound trite…but this advice is not coming from my experience—it is coming from David’s experience. David’s world crumbled around him, and we can (and should) learn from how he responded.
Find True Friends
If you ever face a crisis situation, you may be shocked by the responses of the people around you. Sometimes the people you feel are your closest friends pull away when things get difficult. The people you think will be with you through thick and thin sometimes abandon you in your hour of need. At the same time, the people who stick closest to you are sometimes the people you would have completely written off.
David had that experience here. Many of David’s subjects followed him as he fled from Jerusalem. Most of the people from the palace came with him as did a large contingent of soldiers. However, there was at least one conspicuous absence—one of the king’s most trusted advisers. He had abandoned David to help Absalom. David was deflated by the loss of someone he thought was a good friend, but he knew that God would provide for his needs.
David climbed the Mount of Olives to worship God. When he arrived at the top, an old friend, Hushai was there. Hushai was waiting at the top of the mountain in mourning. He wanted to help David. He wanted to do whatever he could to help. He was willing to march through the wilderness with David if that was what he needed. He was a true friend. Hushai appeared at just the right time for David, and it gave him hope that God had not forgotten him.
God surrounded David with trusted friends because He designed us to draw strength from each other. We see a great illustration of this in the life of Moses. In Exodus 17, the Israelites were fighting a battle. Moses stood on top of the hill with his hands raised toward God. As long as his hands were raised, the Israelites were successful in battle, but when his hands dropped, they began to lose. Moses recognized this, but after a while, he got so tired that he could no longer hold up his hands. So, two of his friends came and helped hold his hands up when he couldn’t do it himself.
When your world begins to collapse, look for the people God will bring to help hold you up. True friends will infuse us with strength when we can’t carry on alone. Of course, we often do not know who those true friends are until we are in the midst of a trial. It is in those times of crisis that we must begin to look for those who truly care, and then embrace them as a gift from God. Don’t write anyone off, because God may send someone totally unexpected.
Do What Is Right
Human nature being what it is, when everything seems to be crashing in around us, we have a tendency to focus on ourselves, with the result being that we make selfish decisions that only serve to make things worse. A lot of times we fail to see that our decisions will impact other people, so we don’t even consider those around us. David avoided this trap and instead sought to do what was right for everyone involved—even when it didn’t seem to be in his best interest.
We see this in a number of David’s actions. First, David fled the city. He did not necessarily run because he was scared (remember, he was a mighty warrior), but because he wanted to protect those who lived there. He knew that if Absalom attacked the city, it would not only be him and his army that would be affected, but the innocent bystanders who lived in the city as well. David only left ten of his concubines at the palace, because they would not be viewed as enemies, and would be safe. David was concerned with doing what was best for everyone involved, not only himself.
Second, David offered some of his soldiers the opportunity to leave, since they didn’t really have a stake in the matter. Ittai was a commander of a group of soldiers from a foreign land. He and his soldiers had only just recently joined David’s forces. David told Ittai that he and his soldiers and their families did not have to stay, because he didn’t think it was fair to them. Ittai declared his loyalty to David and to the Lord.
It didn’t make good military sense for David to send home soldiers, because he would want everyone on his side that he could get. But even though his world was crumbling around him, David continued to do right by the people he served, and God blessed his desire to do what was right.
Third, David sent the ark back to Jerusalem rather than keeping it with himself. David could have insisted that the ark stay with him since he was God’s chosen king. He could have insisted that Absalom was not worthy to live in the same city as the ark. He could have used the ark as leverage for leniency from his son. Instead, David sent the ark back to the tabernacle in Jerusalem, where it belonged. He knew that just because things were difficult for him, it didn’t mean that he should ignore God’s commands about the ark and treat it as a bargaining chip or a good luck charm. David demonstrated great faith, declaring that he would do what is right because God was in control, and that He might choose to bless David’s obedience.
The idea that we should do what is right in times of trouble makes perfect sense; in fact it seems overly simplistic. So many times when trials come, we find ourselves asking what God wants us to do. We wear ourselves out trying to figure out the best approach to solving our problems. I suspect that much of the time, the problem is not that we don’t know what God wants us to do. The problem is that we don’t trust the Lord enough to do it. Instead, we seek advice from all sorts of people, trying to find something that sounds good to us, or find someone else who will tell us that what we want to do is a good idea. We have a tendency to trust our own judgment over everything else, especially when God’s commands seem counterproductive. So, instead of following the world’s advice (or our own), we should follow God’s principles. We should:
- Work toward forgiveness rather than exacting revenge
- Wait instead of buying something we can’t afford
- Make our relationship with God a priority instead of allowing ourselves to drift away
- Stand up for what’s right, even when we will face consequences for it
- Rejoice in life rather than grumble about our difficulties
What we must realize is that God’s commands are always right—not just when they are easy to follow. In the times where life becomes most difficult, we are most tempted to take shortcuts. We must trust God enough to follow his commands regardless of what our feelings tell us.
Seek God’s Help
Throughout this ordeal, David consistently sought the Lord. David’s faith was firmly rooted in God’s sovereignty. He knew that God was ultimately in control of the situation. As each wave of trouble came crashing over David, he reminded himself and those around him that God could show him mercy and deliver him from this trouble. Shockingly, David did not seem to be in a hurry to make this happen. He was willing to wait on the Lord’s timing.
David climbed the Mount of Olives with his people to worship God and seek his help. When he heard about how his trusted advisor had abandoned him, his immediate response was one of prayer to the Lord. Psalm 3 is an example of a song that David wrote during this time, affirming his trust in God to deliver and protect him. Some scholars believe David wrote this song the morning after he fled Jerusalem. His first thought was not to worry about all that was going on, but to remind himself that God was in control.
David trusted that God ultimately knew what was best for him. He had absolute faith that God was in control of the situation, and he declared that he would accept whatever God sent his way (cf. 15:26). David proved that he really believed this, because not long after saying these words, a man came and began to hurl insults and dirt clods at him. He could have had the man killed, but instead, he reaffirmed his trust that God knew what was best.
This is one of those principles that is really hard to actually apply. It’s one thing to say that we should wait upon the Lord when things are going well and there is nothing to wait for, but when everything in our lives is changing at once, it seems only natural to be impatient. David, however, waited on the Lord.
It would be tempting for us to sound spiritual and say, I’m just going to sit here and wait for God to fix things. I don’t think God works that way. He wants us to do our part. He isn’t in the habit of rewarding laziness. It would be kind of like the farmer who says, I trust that God knows what’s best for me, so I’m not going to plant crops this year, because God will provide for me and my family. It sounds spiritual, but it’s really stupid and lazy.
David relied on God to ultimately resolve the situation, but he wasn’t lazy. He didn’t just sit around waiting for God to act. David was still willing to do what needed to be done. He prepared for battle, employed good strategy, and was willing to march through the night when that’s what was needed. Rather than sitting around and expecting God to just solve his problems, David stepped up and did the hard work God expected of him. We need to do the same. In the midst of crisis, we need to trust God while still doing the work that is needed. We may need to:
- Seek counseling
- Look for a job that will pay the bills, even if it’s not our dream job
- Cut back on spending
- Ask for forgiveness
- Worship with God’s people
- Reach out to those who have wronged us
- Avoid an activity or situation that causes temptation
When things get difficult, we must seek God’s help. We must trust that He is ultimately in control, and nothing that happens is beyond his ability to use for good. We must also be willing to do the hard work that He may ask us to do.
If we want to be able to rest in the truth that God is in control, we must spend time with him. David gave priority to worship—he asked God for help, he meditated on God’s character, and he led the people around him into worship. Spending time in prayer and in Bible study can change our perspective. It will deepen our faith and help us to seek and rely on God.
Unfortunately, as you look around you may notice that many people are going through difficult times. I speak today to hurting people and I recognize that I don’t fully understand the depth of your hurt. I may not understand, but God does. God has recorded David’s story so that we can have an example to look at when we face difficult times. We should seek to emulate David’s attitude.
Let me speak to two groups of people. First, let me speak to those of you who feel the waves of life overwhelming you. I think David says three things to you.
- Draw upon the strength of your friends. I believe and hope that some of your most reliable friends will be right here in the church. Look around this place. Find those who care and seem to have it together and draw on their strength. That’s what the body of Christ is all about.
- Do what God says. This is not the time to compromise your values. Any temporary relief you get from taking shortcuts now will only result in deeper heartache later. Continue to do what is right. Continue to be a person of character.
- Trust God’s Character. Read through the Bible and remind yourself of God’s faithfulness. Remind yourself of the verses that say the judge of all the earth will do what is right or that God works all things together for good. Build your life on that belief. Cling to it with every ounce of strength you have.
Second, let me talk to those who don’t need this message right now. Life is going pretty well for you. It is important to realize in these times that we too will face hardships. We need to use this time to prepare. What can we be doing?
- Cultivate friendships. The best way to do that is to start being a good friend to others. You’ll find that when you have demonstrated true friendship to others, they will often be true friends to you when you need them.
- Learn to walk in obedience. College students studying education can learn all the facts about teaching kids, but they don’t really learn how to teach until they get into a real classroom with real kids. Facts are of little value until they are put into practice. We need to start living by God’s commands now, so that we will be able to trust him enough to be obedient when things get tough.
- Develop a solid relationship with God. Study His character. Get involved in Sunday school or a Bible study. Work at developing consistent prayer habits. The investment you make now will pay huge dividends later.
Sometimes the storms of life can leave us with deep wounds. We feel as though we are all alone and that we can’t possibly carry on. But I think God includes stories of others who have faced difficult times to encourage us. The stories of people like David, Job, and Paul are kind of like a first aid kit to the soul. We can find healing for our wounds through the study of their lives. We are reminded that other people have survived similar trials, and we should be driven to look at how they made it through. These stories are a lot like a first aid kit—there is great potential for healing…but just like a first aid kit, healing only comes if we actually use the tools that are given to us.