Summary: Fifth in a series of messages on the life of David. This message deals with how to handle the losses in our lives.
All of us experience losses throughout our lives. We have family members and friends who die. Sometimes we lose jobs. Or we can lose material possessions or our health. Sometimes we lose a relationship that’s important to us because of a conflict or because someone moves away. Those kinds of losses are a part of life and usually we can’t control them. But we can determine how we respond to them. And how we respond to the losses in our lives will determine whether God can use them to mature us and make us more like Jesus or whether those losses will devastate us and drive us away from God.
This morning we’re going to see how David dealt with loss in his life and see if we can’t discover some principles that will help us make the most of our losses. In 1 Samuel 31, the Bible records that Saul and his 3 sons, including Jonathan are killed in battle with the Philistines. Then, at the beginning of 2 Samuel 1, an Amalekite man appears before David with Saul’s crown and armband, claiming that he had killed the wounded Saul at Saul’s request. David and his men immediately begin the process of mourning for Saul and Jonathan, and then David has the Amalekite man killed for striking down the Lord’s anointed. That brings us to 2 Samuel 1:17 and David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan.
Read 2 Samuel 1:17-27
This lament represents a pivotal point in David’s life. Eugene Peterson refers to it as a “bridge from life to death to life.” David had been anointed king probably 10-15 years prior to this event and he had spent a good part of that time running from Saul, who was trying to kill him. But now that Saul is dead, this lament becomes an essential transition from that part of his life to his reign as the king of Israel.
Most of us today aren’t real familiar with the process of lament. We don’t even use that word much today. But in the Bible, the concept of lament was very important. About seventy percent of the Psalms, many of them written by David, are classified as laments. And the prophet Jeremiah wrote a whole book of the Bible, the book of Lamentations [imagine that] as a lament. I could give you a dictionary definition of lament this morning, but I really like Eugene Peterson’s description of lament in his book Leap over the Wall:
…making the most of our loss without getting bogged down in it…
That seems to be a pretty good description of what David does with his lament.
Perhaps one of the reasons we have such a hard time with this concept of lament or grieving is that our culture has a tendency to trivialize human life. All you have to do is turn on the news. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re watching one of the networks or one of the cable news outlets like CNN or Fox. Disaster is reported endlessly. In fact, it seems that the best way to get noticed in our culture is to do something bad. The worse the act, the more notoriety one receives. Eugene Peterson describes the process like this:
In the wake of whatever has gone wrong or whatever wrong has been done, commentators gossip, reporters interview, editors pontificate, Pharisees moralize; then psychological analyses are conducted, political reforms initiated, and academic studies funded. But there’s not one line of lament.
[Leap over a Wall, p. 116]
We hear a lot about lament, or more commonly grief, but I’m convinced that not very many of us are very good at it. So let’s see what we can learn from David’s lament. Let’s see…
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF MY LOSSES:
In order to help me remember these six principles this morning I’ve created an acrostic that spells out the word “grieve.” I tried to come up with wording that could form an acrostic for “lament”, but I just couldn’t figure out anything that would work and that wasn’t utter nonsense. So this morning, let’s see what we can learn about how to grieve.
Grant that a loss has occurred
Here’s where a lot of us get in trouble right off the bat. One of the defense mechanisms that many of us have learned to use in order to deal with loss is to either avoid or deny the loss or minimize its significance. We convince ourselves that the loss isn’t real or that it’s no big deal. The problem with that kind of response it that it doesn’t allow us to go through the grieving process, it doesn’t allow us to lament.
As men, we tend to be more prone to this type of approach than women. We’ve been taught to be “macho”, not to express our feelings, so one of the easiest ways to deal with loss is to just avoid or minimize the loss. But the results of that kind of approach are devastating. There have been numerous studies that show the correlation between avoidance and denial of our losses and addiction and depression.