As a retired psychiatrist, I’m no stranger to listening to people talk about their lives and their explanations of why things have happened the way they have and sometimes feeling deep down that I just don’t understand their story…
Sometimes I’m even smug enough to think that I’ve worked out a good explanation for the dramas being played out in the lives of friends and family and then there is a surprising development in the plot, or an unexpected detail emerges which throws a curve ball at my theories and sends me into a tizzy of self doubt.
I felt this way on reading the opening chapter of the book of 2 Samuel recently. Yes, I could understand David’s fear of ‘messing’ with the Lord’s anointed ( King Saul). David had, after all, had quite a few opportunities up until this point to personally get rid of the man who had sent him into hiding for years in fear of his own life, and yet he had made it clear he would not harm ” the Lord’s anointed”. I struggled to understand however, that David could say of the late Saul and Jonathan that “in life, they were loved and gracious and in death they were not parted”? Jonathan definitely was both. Saul may have been loved but gracious? Where? When?
David feared God and that fear was played out clearly in how he approached the subject of King Saul’s death. He could not allow himself or his followers to bask in the wonderful news that his enemy was no more, God himself was turning the pages of this chapter in Israel’s history and it called for fear, and reverence and mourning.
For David, indeed Jonathan did not exist without Saul. Jonathan had been God’s provision for David as he negotiated the daily challenges of life in the Royal Courts with a psychopathic ruler. Jonathan had been his confidant, his protection and his friend.
In the knowledge of God’s anointing over his own life; in fear of what God was doing in Saul’s life and knowing God’s protection and provision in the process, David accepts a fugitive existence with grace and patience.
And in the moment David receives news of the death of Saul and Jonathan, David is freed from the tyranny of Saul’s oppressive search, but has lost his best friend too. He is also now the new King of Israel and he must have felt relief/grief and overwhelming responsibility all at once!
So it seems David processes his feelings using a trusted formula, which he has mastered over many years:
God is at work, watch and learn with fear and reverence.
God gives, for a purpose and a season, and God takes away.
And me, well I’m learning that God’s grace is a multi- faceted jewel. Grace changes behaviour, and changes how we think and unless I look specifically for the ‘grace dimension’ in the lives of others, I may fail to understand them.