Summary: Eighth in a series on the life of David. This messages focuses on how to deal with suffering.
In the April 16, 2006 issue of Parade Magazine, Marlo Thomas wrote the following words in an article titled “We Can Become Bitter of Better”:
There are times in our lives when the right words spoken at the right moment can transform us. They challenge us at a crossroads, carry us through times of sorrow or dare us to action. I learned all over again how much the right words can mean from contributors like church secretary Judith Grace of Hoffman Estates, Ill. For her, the words came from a former neighbor who rescued Judith from inconsolable grief after the death of her newborn son.
“Whenever something hurts us in life,” the neighbor told her, “we have a choice to make: We can become bitter or better.” Judith chose better.
That advice that Judith Grace received is nothing new. In fact, that is the message from David’s life that we’ll take a look at this morning. As I’ve shared with you many times before, we can’t do anything about many of the circumstances that come into our lives. Because we live in a world that is full of sin, we will experience pain, trials, afflictions and suffering. Following Jesus Christ is no guarantee that we’ll somehow be spared from pain and suffering, in spite of what we might hear from some pulpits and in some books written by authors who call themselves Christians.
This morning, I’m once again indebted to Eugene Peterson for some of the ideas that I’ll be sharing with you. And once again, Peterson has a great way with words when he writes about the fact that Christians are not immune to pain and suffering:
I don’t take any particular pleasure in writing this. I would feel better if I could promise that being a Christian gave us a distinct advantage over the competition. Some of the most prominent and well-paid religious leaders in North America are following that line these days – giving people tips on how to be successful in marriage and business, assuring congregations that if they’ll sign up and give a little more money they’ll experience prosperity. They design books and lectures and sermons to sell lottery tickets on a jackpot of the supernatural.
[Leaping Over a Wall, pp. 194-195]
Certainly the life of David, the man after God’s own heart, is no advertisement for a trouble-free life. As we’ve made this journey together through portions of David’s life, we’ve discovered that it often consisted of one trial after another. He spent years in the wilderness, running for his life even though God had already anointed him as king. As we’ll see this morning, his family was the epitome of a dysfunctional family. David committed adultery and murder and he suffered the consequences of his sin.
Like David, we can’t control much of the difficulty and suffering that comes into our lives, but we certainly can control how we respond to those afflictions. And depending on how we respond, we can either become bitter or better.
One New Year’s Eve at London’s Garrick Club, British dramatist Frederick Lonsdale was asked by Symour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had quarreled in the past and never restored their friendship. "You must," Hicks said to Lonsdale. "It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy New Year." So Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. "I wish you a happy New Year," he said, "but only one."