Dealing with Adversity: Example from David
King David was faced with adversity in the form of a rebellion against him led by his son Absalom. David’s third son Absalom cultivated reputation among Israeli men as a future king to replace his father. He was successful and support for him grew rapidly. To take advantage, he declared himself king and, because of the strength of his support, David and his people ran from Jerusalem in fear of him and his supporters.
Have Faith but Prepare to Fight
We learn in this bible study that David dealt with the adversity by resigning to the will of God while taking steps to prepare to fight the rebellion. He sent supporters to infiltrate Absalom’s organization in Jerusalem to gather information and influence the enemy’s decision making apparatus. Also, he stayed focused on dealing with the rebellion, ignoring smaller aggravations: symptoms of the rebellion that were not connected directly to the root problem. David declared for the will of God, saying that he will either return to Jerusalem later or stay out permanently depending on how God would decide the matter. However, he knew that faith alone is not enough, in the spirit of Apostle James’ teaching (several generations later) that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Therefore, he advised priests Zadok and Abiathar that were loyal to him to return to Jerusalem with their two grown sons and setup a network to gather information for him from Absalom’s organization. He asked Hushai, an adviser loyal to him, to return to Jerusalem and declare loyalty to Absalom. His tasks were to feed information to Zadok and Abiathar and provide counter advice to frustrate and confuse the advice of Ahithophel, formerly an adviser to David but now working with and loyal to Absalom.
While David was on his way, a man, Shimei, from the tribe of Benjamin (home of previous king, Saul) presented him with a tempting diversion. Shimei cursed and threw things at David, claimed David stole kingdom from Saul, and taunted him saying that God had paid him in his own coins through Absalom. David cautioned his men to leave Shimei alone. By this action he illustrated ignoring the symptoms and staying focused on the core of the adversity. Going after Shimei would have consumed energy needlessly, diverted focus from the real problem, and maybe distorted impression about David’s tolerance.
We also learn from Absalom’s approach to cultivating reputation, notwithstanding that he was motivated by treachery. His approach demonstrates that you can expect harvest if you prepare the land, plant the seeds, and tend the plants through the growing season. This principle is applicable in agriculture as in growing a reputation or support for any kind of product or idea. Absalom stood on the roadside on the gateway to the city, shook hands, and interacted friendly with Israeli people consistently every morning for about four years. He “stole” the hearts of Israeli men by so doing.