"Don't Blame God" (February 2009)
When problems and difficulties come, how do you respond to them? What is your course of action? I have learned from personal experience and observation that people tend to handle them in one of several ways: they try to handle the problem themselves and totally ignore that there is a God in heaven waiting for them to acknowledge Him, or they just try to ignore the problem in hopes that if they don’t think about it it will go away, or they turn from God. Many people tend to look for someone to blame for the problems they are facing, that person is usually God, and as a result they turn away from Him. We all know people who “take it out” on God, perhaps that has been the case in your own life at some point- perhaps you are there now. Or, lastly, some run to God for His help and guidance.
David was a man who faced tremendous difficulties for many years. There is so much that we can learn from his life and how he responded to those difficult times. One of those times that I want to focus on is found in 1 Samuel 30. As you know David had been fighting with the Philistines for some time. At this particular time the Philistines were going to war against Israel. The princes of the Philistines told the captain to send David and his men away and do not let them fight with them because they were afraid that during the battle David would renew his allegiance to King Saul and turn on them as an adversary. “Then said the princes of the Philistines, What do these Hebrews here? And Achish said unto the princes of the Philistines, Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, which hath been with me these days, or these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day? And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him; and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, Make this fellow return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary to us: for wherewith should he reconcile himself unto his master? should it not be with the heads of these men?” (1 Samuel 29:3,4) David and his men left the Philistines and headed back to their homes at Ziklag. When they got there they discovered that the Amalekites had invaded the city and burned it and taken their wives and children captive. “And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way. So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives.” (1 Samuel 30:1-3)
Can you imagine coming home from a trip and discovering that your home has been completely destroyed and your family was taken prisoner by your enemy? I can’t. This not only had it happened to David but to all his men with him. There was nothing left- just the charred remains of their life. And when you thought it couldn’t get any worse it did. David’s own men- the ones who had been loyal to him, who had followed him for years, who had fought beside him even risking their own lives- were now talking about killing him. “Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters. (1 Samuel 30:4-6b) I don’t think you could have gotten any lower than these men did- you know the situation is bad when grown men, warriors at that, cry like babies.
Have you ever been in such a place? Have you ever had your whole world come crashing down on you? Have you felt like you’ve lost everything? Does it look like the sun will never shine again? Does all hope seem lost? Do you feel like you are going from bad to worse? Have you ever been in the place where you were so grieved, so heartbroken that you cried until you had no more tears to cry and your strength was all gone? How you handle tragedy when it strikes, or problems when they come, will have an affect on the rest of your life. The way you handle them is also the determining factor of whether you live a life of victory or defeat.
What can we learn from David’s trial at Ziklag that will help us in times of trouble? The greatest lesson that we can learn is how not to blame God. It is the job of the enemy to pull you away from God. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10a) He wants to destroy your relationship with God and your trust in Him. He does this through many sources, among which are problems. When you find yourself going through these times, the first thing he will do is accuse God to you. He will try to plant thoughts of doubt in your mind. Such as: “Does God really love you? If God really cared He wouldn’t have let this happen. If God was so powerful and in control why didn’t He stop it? Couldn’t He? Where was God? Why did He let this happen, He knows everything, He knew this was coming?” If you entertain those thoughts you will begin to agree with them and that will lead to a resentment towards God. You’ll begin to blame Him for not doing something. You will get angry and turn your back on Him and eventually walk away from Him.
From looking at David’s response we know that he did not ignore the problem- he was well aware of it and took action to do something about it. “Sweeping your problems under the rug” never solves anything. They are always there and at some point the rug is going to get a big lump in it and you will have to face it soon or later. We see this very thing happen in the life of David when he slept with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to cover up his sin. David “ignored” his sin problem and tried to “sweep it under the rug” until one day the prophet Nathan came to him with a word from the Lord that exposed it. (2 Samuel 11,12) Not dealing with the problem won’t solve it. You can’t just ignore it. You can’t just “cry it out” and expect that it is going to be better.
We also know that David did not try to handle the problem on his own. History, even our own personal history/experiences, has taught us that trying to handle the problem ourselves only makes it worse. Look at the Israelites at Ai. This seemed like such a “small” problem especially since the Lord had brought them through Jericho victoriously. They thought they could handle it in their might and ability so they didn’t bother to ask the Lord about it. But we know the end result, they were defeated when they tried on their own. “And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.” (Joshua 7:34)
David did not ignore the problem and he did not try to handle it on his own, but these were not the things that kept Him from blaming God. The first thing David did was “encourage himself in the Lord”. “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.” (1 Samuel 6) Did you hear what I said? He didn’t go pray. He didn’t call the prayer chain. He didn’t get on the phone and make a few calls. He didn’t start asking God, “Why?” Instead the FIRST thing David did was “encourage himself in the Lord his God”.
This, I believe, is the key to the greatest lesson that we can learn from David’s trial at Ziklag. If we will put this same response into practice when trials come to our lives, they will not pull us away from God but draw us to Him instead. Am I saying that we will always feel like doing it? No, when you are in such a deep state of grief as they were, encouraging yourself in the Lord is not something that always comes naturally or easily, but it is something you MUST do if you are going to make it through it.
How do we encourage ourselves in the Lord? You encourage yourself by remembering what God has done for you in the past. You take a moment and “remember”. You remember His faithfulness. You remember all the times He met your need and how He answered your prayers. You remember the times He did for you what you could not do for yourself. You remember the times He made a way when there seemed to be no way. You remember the times He healed your body. You remember the times He brought you through the fire, through the flood, through the dessert and through the valley. You remember that He has never left you nor forsaken you. You remember the times that He stuck close to you even when everyone else had abandoned you. You remember the times He comforted you during the night when you cried yourself to sleep or had to muffle the tears in your pillow so that no one else would see the pain you were going through. You remember the “pig pen” that you once were in and how He loved you and brought you out. You remember the pit that He reached down into in order to pull you out. You remember how He paid the ransom for your sins by shedding His blood on the cross. You remember that if He loved you so much that He died for you He certainly loves you enough to see you through this trial. You also remember His promises. Remember that He has made you promises and He is faithful as promised- He is not a man that He should lie. If He promised to walk with you, to see you through, to make a way, to go before you, then He is faithful to keep His word. Remind yourself that God causes all things to work together for the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. You also remember the personal word that God has given to you concerning His plan and destiny for your life, and remember that He is faithful to bring it to pass.
David encouraged himself in the Lord by remembering how God had delivered him from the bear, and from the lion, and from the giant. He remembered how God had preserved his life from King Saul’s attacks. He remembered how God sustained him during his time of testing in the past. He remembered God’s promises and His anointing upon his life. As he remembered what God had done for him, he was reminded of who God was- His goodness, His power, His strength, His faithfulness. As he was reminded of who God was, his faith was strengthened. Encouraging yourself in the Lord builds your faith- your faith in Him, His power and His ability. Once David’s faith was renewed the discouragement left, the despair left, the confusion left. The fear left also because fear and faith are opposite and they cannot operate together. Faith put fear and accusations in their place. Faith proclaimed that what God did in David’s past situations He can still do in his present situation. “And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?” (Psalm 77:10-13)
David’s next step was to pray. “And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech's son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. And David enquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.” (1 Samuel 30:7,8) David had to encourage himself first in order to get to a place where he could pray to God- sometimes the pain is so deep that prayer seems to elude you. He had to get to a place where he did not blame God but had the faith to trust God. After he encouraged himself, he inquired of God and God answered him and gave him directions on what he should do.
There is not a one of us who are exempt from problems, trials and difficulties. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Some of the things we face are mild in comparison and some are more devastating than others. Some shake us to the very core of our being. Some test every ounce of faith that we have. Some appear hopeless. Some scream at us to give up. You know that none of us know what a day may hold, we never know what we may wake up to. David and his men had no idea that when they started on their three day journey home they would find it destroyed when they got there. I am sure they were looking forward to being off the battlefield and in the comfortable surroundings of their loved ones, but that was not the case.
I don’t want to sound “doom and gloom”, but as we watch the news and look at the events that are unfolding around us, the future doesn’t look very promising. Problems are mounting all around us. The whole world seems to be “teetering” and reeling with “uncertainties”- nothing is stable. The United States economy is in the worse shape ever. People are losing jobs by the thousands. Tomorrow you may not have a job. Tomorrow the banks might fail. Tomorrow you may find yourself homeless. Tomorrow you may lose everything that you have worked so hard to attain and achieve. Tomorrow it could all be gone like dust in the wind- after all, this life and all that it consist of is like a vapor. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14) Should that happen, or worse, what will your response be? Will you blame God?
If you blame God you will cut off your only true source of help, strength and peace. You will cut off the very One who can see you through and sustain you in the midst of your trial. If you blame God where will you go? The arm of flesh (men, government, programs, moneys) can’t save you. Look at David, who was there to help him? Who could he turn to for comfort and strength? All his men were in the same boat he was in. They had their own problems to deal with, their hearts were breaking too, they were so consumed with their own grief they could not offer any encouragement to David. David had no one. There may be times when there is no shoulder for you to cry on. There may not be a caring ear or compassionate heart. You may not be able to reach your pastor, your prayer partner or a family member or friend.
So how are you going to handle the trials you face? Are you going to hide your head under the cover and hope it goes away? Are you going to curl up in a corner somewhere and lose your sanity? Are you going to feel sorry for yourself? Are you going to try to take care of it by yourself? Are you going to start pointing the finger at someone for a scapegoat? Are you going to listen to the accusations of the enemy? Are you going to listen to his taunts, “Curse God and die?” “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.” (Job 2:9) Hopefully, you will not do any of the above but instead immediately encourage yourself in the Lord. When you do, you will not blame God. You won’t be able to blame Him because once you remember how good and faithful He has always been to you... you’ll know that He will be again.