2 Samuel 18:19-33 – To Grieve or Not to Grieve

Read 2 Samuel 18:19-33

Statue of a grieving woman

Why was Zadok’s son so eager to give King David the news, and then not tell him about his son’s fate? If you’ve ever lost a child or known someone who has, you know the agony of loss. It’s like the order of things, the circle of life, if you will, are all messed up. Who in their right mind would want to deliver that news?

As it turns out, even bold Joab knew the news would be devastating to the king. That’s why he called up an Ethiopian to bring the news to spare any harm of the king’s wrath, to his own men. The outsider did not have the same fear or dread that held Ahimaaz back from revealing Absalom’s death.

I remember singing a choir anthem in college about this scene of King David’s agonizing lament over the death of this son. It was called “When David Heard.” At the time, I hadn’t spent time with this passage and those readings leading up to it. I wasn’t a parent yet aware of how fragile life can be and how earnestly we seek to protect our children. Yet the song haunted me and comes back to me in this moment very clearly.

We’ve seen David mourn before–for his friend Jonathan, for Saul, and for his unnamed child with Bathsheba. We have seen David’s eloquence in the moment, but not this time. David’s anguished cry imagines all that could have been but was not.

Both messengers tried to position the news in the most positive light. Both led with how God’s hand played a role in the victory. Both times David seemed to ignore the big win but only wanted to hear that his son was somehow alive despite the victory.

What stands out to you? As a parent, I’m moved. In this moment, King David didn’t care that his kingdom was restored. His first thought was of his son. “If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” As parents, we want to spare our children any pain, sickness, or harm. As a king David was victorious that day. As a father, he had failed.

We all grieve in different ways. There is no right or wrong way. The important thing is to grieve. If something makes us sad, it does us no good to stuff our feelings and try to put on a happy face. King David certainly didn’t do that in this instance. It’s more than okay to let our emotions flow.

What are you grieving right now? Maybe it’s the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the isolation of a pandemic, the unrest and discontent between people. Don’t rush past your feelings. Give your sorrow and pain to God.

praying hands looking up

Let’s pray …
Lord, you know my heart and how it breaks right now. There are so many miserable people in this world who keep hurting each other. It seems almost like an epidemic of its own. Bring your comfort, Lord, to those who are struggling with illness or loss of a loved one. These times are so hard. We need you more than ever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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