Can you remember a time when you had a great plan set up for your life, and it didn’t turn out that way? Last decade? This morning? Maybe there was a failed romance, and years on you are still alone. A bankrupt business. Maybe it was a broken marriage, and you are left holding the pieces. He wasn’t supposed to die. She wasn’t supposed to get sick. They walked away from the faith. A gut-punch. A heart-wrench. A deep sadness that settles in your bones.
This weekend, I was listening to a daily Bible podcast, and I was struck by a short passage in 1 Samuel:
15 David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. 16 And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” 18 And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.1 Samuel 23:15-18
Look at that. David was anointed and promised the throne of Israel almost 10 years before this, and here he is running away from Saul, the disgraced, rejected has-been bent on David’s destruction. David is hiding out (at least as well as a small army of 600 can hide) in the wilderness of Ziph. I’ve been to this wilderness, and it is, well, wild. And dry and hot–a better space for goats than people.
And then the prince, the son of the washed-up King Saul shows up. And he comes to strengthen David’s hand in God–to encourage him. David may have been in the wilderness literally, but he was not abandoned, either by God or by his friend. Jonathan wasn’t there to plot against his father or to supply David with resources to stop the deadly chase. He was there to remind David that God’s will would not be thwarted.
Saul wanted David dead–and was willing to chase him around the desert to take him down. Prince Jonathan wanted to see God’s work accomplished. Look at what he says to David: “You shall be king, and I shall be next to you.” What a dream these two had–Friends could serve Kingdom together.
They made a covenant with one another that this would happen. Jonathan was not envious of his friend’s favor with God. He wasn’t scrambling to become the next monarch. Instead, Jonathan swore before YHWH–Jehovah, the covenant keeping God, that he would support David as King.
But it wasn’t to be. Not long after this, Jonathan was killed.
11 Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. 12 And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.2 Samuel 1:11-12
Jonathan wouldn’t be there when David ascended the throne, and David grieved. He grieved for the lost friendship, for the wise counsel his older friend might have given him, for the company of a kindred spirit.
This wasn’t the way they thought it would be. And David lamented.
With that background, and with your own longing and loss on your heart, read the words of Psalm 27–s-l-o-w-l-y.
27 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet[b] I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire[c] in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek[d] my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”[e]
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look[f] upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
All lament, all loss, all disappointment, must be examined in light of the just, merciful, good character of God–patiently and with expectation. “Wait for the Lord,” David cried. Justice will come from the hand of God. Abandonment is soothed by His presence. Fleeing is replaced by dwelling in peace with God. Grief is accompanied with singing. It isn’t what we thought, but with our good God, we will never alone.
“Be strong and let your heart take courage.”