This week, my quiet time reading has been in the book of I Samuel. Today's morning read consisted primarily of chapter 26, and the heading above it in my NIV Bible is “David Again Spares Saul’s Life.” There’s a valuable lesson to be learned from David sparing King Saul, as is relayed in this segment of Scripture (and chapter 24 as well), and it is this: David truly entrusted the reality of his great hardships—his terribly unjust hardships—to God's handling.
More than once, as we read in other chapters of I Samuel, David was in a position to, humanly speaking, justifiably take matters into his own hands (and in thus doing, would rid himself of the distress wrongfully and continually caused him by Saul); yet, as we see in chapter 26, David’s resolve was this: “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go himself into battle and perish” (10).
Though he had no way of knowing the exact manner in which God would sovereignly handle his hard dilemma, or how God might permit it to unfold and end, David clearly understood that he could not sinfully take matters into his own hands in order to eliminate the suffering that Saul’s actions clearly brought into his life. David understood that he must wait upon the Lord to deal with the one who caused ongoing adversity for him.
His response in chapter 26 is reminiscent of what I just read a day ago in chapter 25, regarding David’s encounter with with another foolish man named Nabal: "[the Lord] has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head” (39). Though an entirely different scenario than David's recurring interactions with Saul, what's important to note here is that David humbly submitted himself under the wisdom of the Lord's sovereign authority, instead of naturally responding in the flesh.
Ultimately, David understood that it would be the Lord's value of his life (and not his own mismanagement) that would deliver him from all his trouble (26:24).
Within the extremely challenging situations of mistreatment and suffering, within the arduous and exhausting context of what God’s sovereignty had allowed, David still permitted God to rule over his life. He allowed God to declare the direction and do the determining within his distressing times. When fleshly reaction and retribution would have been viewed as reasonable, David let God rightfully be God in his personal life.
However, while it may seem at first glance that David remained passive—seemingly doing nothing during his allowance of God's determination of the outcomes—David was anything but passive. Most certainly, God's true Word testifies that David was very active throughout his times of hardships and waiting upon the Lord. Examining his story through the pages of the Old Testament, you can't help but draw a solid conclusion that, while David wasn't perfect and even miserably failed God on multiple occasions, his was an actively engaged participation in God’s sovereign rule in his life.
During times of great personal distress, David habitually hid himself in the stronghold; surrounded himself with like-minded, loyal companions; cried out to God; and (the most sustaining, in my opinion) worshiped the One so worthy of his adoration, come what may. In these purposeful actions, David found the ongoing strength to endure his trying times until a sovereign Lord—in His perfect time and way—made plain the right way to alter David’s circumstances, so that David's remained guiltless of wrongdoing in the eyes of his God
Fellow sojourner, I have no way of knowing your particular present hard situation or suffering season that has been unjustly brought on by another, or is a result of living in this fractured, unjust world. I have no way of knowing the trouble and distress that’s been endured thus far, or the time frame it will continue to last. I have no way of knowing your present mental disposition, possibly contemplating fleshly, unholy ways in which you can take matters into your own hands because relief and justice seem to be nowhere in sight. I have no way of knowing if you've convinced yourself that if you just sit back and do nothing and don't fight for yourself, then who will?
And I have no way of knowing exactly how or exactly when, ultimately, God will preserve, save, and vindicate you because of His enduring love for you (Psalm 138).
However, this I most certainly do know: There’s unexplainable, sustaining strength to be experienced when you, like David, rest in the knowledge of God’s sovereign control over the details of your life. Yes, even His sovereignty over the hard times you’re presently enduring.
And I do know there’s unexplainable, sustaining strength to be experienced when you emulate David's example in the following ways:
Hide yourself in the stronghold. For the believer, the follower of Christ, the stronghold is the protecting refuge of God’s sustaining Word and the abiding, indwelling presence of our sweet Savior. Live in the pages of the Word and continually remind yourself that through the constant companionship of the Spirit, Jesus is very near.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Surround yourself with like-minded companions. God created us for Christian community, so surround yourself with people you can safely confide your most private realities to, the kind who will do battle for you in prayer and wisely encourage you with Truth.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16
Cry out to God regarding your situation. And then keep crying out to Him again and again, knowing that because of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary, your Father's right there beside you. And He is the only one who knows better than you what exactly to allow in your life and how long to allow it.
Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God; for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:1-3
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Worship, worship, worship! Worship is a powerful, transforming practice because it realigns your focus on God instead of your taxing circumstances and suffering, so mirror David’s habitual model of exalting the unmatchable character of a holy, good God whose wisdom and ways are not man’s.
I will extol the Lord at all times, his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. Hebrews 13:15
As the Lord's anointed, I believe David truly understood what Jesus would ask His disciples more than a thousand years later on the night before His crucifixion, right after Peter had handled an injustice with seemingly justifiable human retaliation: "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:11). Jesus completely accepted God's sovereign government of His life. Later, Peter would go on to write that Jesus "entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (I Peter 1:23). Likewise, David accepted that all the details of his life (yes, even the pain) were in God's hands. In one of his times of great suffering, David penned, "Into your hands I commit my spirit" (Psalm 31:5), the same words Jesus would say to the Father on Calvary's cross. David declared, "But I trust in you, Lord. . .My times are in your hands" (14).
I believe it was in this knowing, accepting, and trusting, that both David and our Savior could find the strength and resolve to relinquish the handling of their unjust hardships and sufferings to an all-wise, all-good, all-powerful God.
Likewise, fellow sojourner, in the engulfment of your right here, right now, present hard realities, entrust your life in your Father's sovereign care.
He fully sees.
He fully knows.
He's fully in control.
And He is holding your times—every moment of every day—in His loving, able hands.
And as I sit here and type these closing words, considering some of the realities in my own life, I'm encouraging myself to do the same.