Life is full of ups and downs. There seems to be a natural flow to it that is beyond our control. There are times when everything seems to ‘go your way’ and then there are times when it seems like everything is turning for the worse. Quite honestly, it seems like there is no rhyme or reason to these natural ebbs and flows—they appear random, meaningless, and uncontrollable.

Boy, that is depressing even to write…

But, what I find when I read the Scripture is an assurance that these ebbs and flows are not meaningless. God uses them and sometimes even orchestrates them for His glory and our good.

As I survey the life of David, I am hit with the question, ‘how much did David really know about God’s hand on his life?” Read through the decades of his life and only in a very few cases do we read where God revealed Himself to David. In 1 Samuel 16, God’s sends a prophet to anoint David King. In 2 Samuel 7 God speaks to David through a prophet that his desire to build a temple will not be granted, but his descendant will have that privilege. 2 Samuel 12, another prophet comes to David to rebuke him from his sin of adultery and murder.

Months, years and even decades span the times where God speaks to David. But what about all those in-between years? How does David respond to the ebb and flow of life when he does not hear directly from God?

As a reader, we are privileged to meet the God behind the story.

1 Sam 16:21-23
21 David came to Saul and stood before him. Saul liked him a great deal, and he became his armor bearer. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse saying, “Let David be my servant, for I really like him.” 23 So whenever the spirit from God would come upon Saul, David would take his lyre and play it. This would bring relief to Saul and make him feel better. Then the evil spirit would leave him alone.

1 Sam 18:10-12
10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul and he prophesied within his house. Now David was playing the lyre that day. There was a spear in Saul’s hand, 11 and Saul threw the spear, thinking, “I’ll nail David to the wall!” But David escaped from him on two different occasions.
12 So Saul feared David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.

The hand of God was continually helping David, nurturing him, saving him, helping him, but David did not always see God working.  David’s poems suggest that he had doubts about God’s presence during the ebb and flow of life.

Psalms 10:1-4
Why, LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you pay no attention during times of trouble?
2 The wicked arrogantly chase the oppressed;
the oppressed are trapped by the schemes the wicked have dreamed up.
3 Yes, the wicked man boasts because he gets what he wants;
the one who robs others curses and rejects the LORD.
4 The wicked man is so arrogant he always thinks,
“God won’t hold me accountable; he doesn’t care.”

God is continually turning defeats into success, yet David’s eyes cannot see it.   Meanwhile, you and me, the readers, are privileged to meet the God behind the story. We see God st work so clearly because the story is written for us, but David was often left feeling alone and desperate for God.

At the heights of his “spiritual” high, David was never ashamed to worship God.

2 Sam 6:15-16
15 David and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD, shouting and blowing trumpets.
16 As the ark of the LORD entered the City of David, Saul’s daughter Michal looked out the window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him.

At his worst, David was not aware that God was with him and he gave into his own passions and lust.

2 Sam 11:2-5
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. Now this woman was very attractive. 3 So David sent someone to inquire about the woman. The messenger said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
4 David sent some messengers to get her. She came to him and he had sexual relations with her. (Now at that time she was in the process of purifying herself from her menstrual uncleanness.) Then she returned to her home. 5 The woman conceived and then sent word to David saying, “I’m pregnant.”

Instead of repenting and facing the consequences of his sin, David sought to hide it.

2 Sam 11:6-17
6 So David sent a message to Joab that said, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked about how Joab and the army were doing and how the campaign was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your home and relax.” When Uriah left the palace, the king sent a gift to him. 9 But Uriah stayed at the door of the palace with all the servants of his lord. He did not go down to his house.
10 So they informed David, “Uriah has not gone down to his house.” So David said to Uriah, “Haven’t you just arrived from a journey? Why haven’t you gone down to your house?” 11 Uriah replied to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah reside in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and my lord’s soldiers are camping in the open field. Should I go to my house to eat and drink and have marital relations with my wife? As surely as you are alive, I will not do this thing!” 12 So David said to Uriah, “Stay here another day. Tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem both that day and the following one. 13 Then David summoned him. He ate and drank with him, and got him drunk. But in the evening he went out to sleep on his bed with the servants of his lord; he did not go down to his own house.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote: “Station Uriah in the thick of the battle and then withdraw from him so he will be cut down and killed.”

In grief, David turns to God and seeks Him

Psalms 38
O LORD, do not continue to rebuke me in your anger!
Do not continue to punish me in your raging fury!
2 For your arrows pierce me, and your hand presses me down.
3 My whole body is sick because of your judgment;
I am deprived of health because of my sin.
4 For my sins overwhelm me;
like a heavy load, they are too much for me to bear.
5 My wounds are infected and starting to smell,
because of my foolish sins.
6 I am dazed and completely humiliated;
all day long I walk around mourning.
7 For I am overcome with shame and my whole body is sick.
8 I am numb with pain and severely battered;
I groan loudly because of the anxiety I feel.
9 O Lord, you understand my heart’s desire;
my groaning is not hidden from you.
10 My heart beats quickly;
my strength leaves me; I can hardly see.
11 Because of my condition, even my friends and acquaintances keep their distance; my neighbors stand far away…
15 Yet I wait for you, O LORD! You will respond, O Lord, my God!…

Sometimes in life, circumstances turn against us, and sometimes we suffer defeats because of our own actions. Have you ever done something you regret and felt like there was no escape from the pit you dug yourself into?

David’s life was filled with blessings, and often he could not see God at work. Yet history teaches us that even in his darkest time and greatest sorrow, God was there. God was there to redeem him. God was there to save him. To comfort him. To turn his greatest defeat into success.

God is with you and me.  We cannot always see Him.  We cannot always hear Him.  But someday when we see the story of life through God’s eyes, we will know that God is here, right now, working behind the scenes, and turning our greatest defeat into success.

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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