Things go wrong. Occasionally they go horribly wrong. The news is filled with such moments, but we don’t need to look that far. In our own lives, something goes wrong most days. The question is: what happens next?
Do you dissolve into tears or flare into anger? Do you look for someone to blame, or blame yourself? When things go wrong we experience an urgent need to respond somehow.
When King David was well settled into middle age, things went horribly wrong for him. His son, Absalom, usurped his kingdom, causing him to dash into exile. As David hurried away from Jerusalem, his life’s work in tatters, he was followed by an old enemy, called Shemei, who threw stones and curses at him in equal measure. One of David’s generals offered to kill the man. David was indignant at the suggestion. “It may be,” he replied, “that God has told Shemei to curse me.”
In the middle of intense disaster, David was trying to discern what God was doing in the situation. Perhaps God had raised up Absalom. Perhaps David had had his time. Perhaps Shimei was right to curse him. On the other hand: perhaps God would restore David to his throne, and repay him with good for the cursing he was receiving. David needed time to answer those questions.
Ancient European religion believed there were two sets of equally matched spiritual forces in the world: good and evil; life and death; light and darkness. Much of that primitive thinking has seeped its way into Christianity. King David, however, had no such thoughts. For him there was only one significant spiritual force: God. And he had learned to trust God when things went badly just as much as when things went well.
Christians often assume that nice things come from God, and nasty things come from sin or the devil. That is far too simplistic. When things go horribly wrong - and they inevitably will at times - we would do well to follow David’s example: trust God, and pause to consider what he might be doing.