Emotions are part of being human. In addition to our intentions, understandings and beliefs we have feelings which can scoop us up and sweep us off in unintended directions. Some emotions are desirable companions: joy, laughter and love. Others are unwelcome guests: sadness, anger and grief.
After King David was driven into exile by his son, Absalom, the only way he could return to his home was if Absalom was defeated. Before the inevitable battle, David pleaded with his generals to be gentle with the young man. The generals ignored the king’s request. Absalom was dispatched; David’s reign was restored, but his son was dead.
David collapsed into searing grief. It is perhaps not a surprise, as he was a poet, that his grief was hauntingly poetic: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
It was good for David to express his grief. Grief needs to be expressed. But there was a problem. Because David was grieving loudly and publicly, his victorious troops were sneaking back to the city like defeated men. The chief general, Joab, gave David a stiff talking to, the gist of which was: ‘If you don’t get your act together and show some appreciation for your soldiers, you will lose your kingdom a second time.’
Emotions are great asset to human society, but they can also be a challenge. Their great power can be a force for either good or ill. Some people are emotionally manipulative; others are emotionally repressed.
David needed to express is grief. He also needed to pull himself together and do his job. We all face such moments. The best guide in the emotional jungle is, love. Jesus’ advice is hard to beat: “Treat others as you would have them treat you."