The downward spiral leads past discouragement, through despair, and deposits its victims at rock bottom. The sunlight of hope rarely touches there, and the sheer walls encompassing the spot make escape seem impossible. Here’s the story of one who found his way out. His journey back offers encouragement for the struggle.
David had a stellar career as a shepherd and song writer. His smack down of Goliath brought instant fame, and his bond with Jonathan set the bar for friendship. David demonstrated courage, loyalty, and wisdom, yet he tumbled to rock bottom (1 Samuel 30). Retrace his bumpy descent.
- Samuel visited Jesse’s home to anoint a king from among Jesse’s sons. When all the sons had been rejected Samuel pressed Jesse, “Are these all the children?” Jesse had an “Oh, yeah” moment and remembered David, the youngest, tending sheep.
- Jesse sent David to resupply his brothers. Foul-mouthed Goliath taunted Israel’s army, and no one took action. David stepped up and delivered a resounding victory. He became the nation’s heartthrob while King Saul frothed with envy over the young man’s accolades.
- Saul’s unbridled jealousy led to an order for David’s execution.
- David sheltered with the priests. In retaliation Saul ordered the execution of eighty-five innocent men with their families. A single priest escaped the carnage, and a crushing load of guilt multiplied David’s burden.
- David lived in caves but began to draw followers. Who would volunteer for such a dismal existence? 1 Samuel 22:2 states, “Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them.”
- David bypassed multiple opportunities to terminate Saul’s life. The young man’s loyalty should have engendered the king’s acceptance but only deepened Saul’s hatred.
- David moved to Philistia to live among Goliath’s cousins. He dwelt in Ziklag and pretended to be an enemy of Israel while raiding the villages of the Amalekites. The double life brought new stresses.
- David marched beside Achish, king of Philistia, as they moved to invade Israel. The king’s advisors did not trust David and convinced Achish to eject David from the army. Downsized by the Philistines? Really?
Cheer up. It could be worse. Some wag added, “So I cheered up, and sure enough it got worse.” David arrived home to find his town burned. The women and children were missing.
Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep.
1 Samuel 30:4
Exhaustion, grief, and bewilderment conquered these battle-hardened soldiers.
The men could have left David at any time but stayed of their own accord. Now they wanted to blame someone for their misfortune. Their muddled reasoning morphed David into a convenient target.
Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters…
1 Samuel 30:6A
Greatly distressed seems a logical response to folks circling with stones in hand. David suffered the same loss as his men, but they required his leadership in this crucial moment. David dried his eyes.
…David strengthened himself in the Lord His God.
1 Samuel 30:6B
Strengthening myself in the Lord is the only way to escape rock bottom. Three actions allow me to scale those sheer walls and return to the sun-filled land of hope:
- Pour out.
- Fill up.
- Move on.
No one climbs with a load of baggage. The Psalms include examples of David dumping raw emotions before God, telling God his anxieties, and voicing his concerns.
God is never shocked or offended when we share our worries. He invites His children to crawl into His lap to unload heavy hearts.
Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.
I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him.
Now that I’ve made room by pouring out the emotional baggage I can refill that space with something wholesome. A fresh vision of who God is and what He can do works wonders in improving outlook. David shifted his focus from the despair of rock bottom to the hope of God’s presence.
For You have girded me with strength for battle…
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble.
It’s time to return to the battle. David sought direction from God and prepared the men for action. Was he successful in his attempted escape from rock bottom?
So David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken…nothing of theirs was missing…David brought it all back.
1 Samuel 30:18-19 (Selected)
Pour out. Fill up. Move on.
After all, who wants to stay in the dismal shadows of rock bottom?