Testing—the place in your life where every supporting prop gets kicked right out from beneath you. It is where you end up when you thought you were going to do great things for God, or have a great family, or have a successful career, and it becomes clear that things are not working out the way you’d dreamed. It will likely be the most frustrating period in your life—but in hindsight, it will turn out to be the most fruitful. That is because the place of testing and tearing down is also the place of forging and rebuilding. As an unknown poet said, it is the place where you are, “pressed into knowing no helper but God.” And there is no better place.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 21:10-14
David escaped from Saul and went to King Achish of Gath. But the officers of Achish were unhappy about his being there. “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?” they asked. “Isn’t he the one the people honor with dances, singing, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him. So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard. Finally, King Achish said to his men, “Must you bring me a madman? We already have enough of them around here! Why should I let someone like this be my guest?”
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) That is the fun part of being a Christ-follower.
Jesus also said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25) That is the not-so-fun part of being a Christ-follower. But it is the imminently rewarding part of walking with Jesus.
Before the Son of David spoke those paradoxical words, David went thru the process that Jesus described. You and I will, too. Like David, we must allow Jesus to break us down so he can build us up, that is, to build us into the kind of people he desires us to be. Going through that process means he will strip us of every misplaced dependency.
You see, the good things in life can be a barrier to the great things God has for us. So God removes them. Deuteronomy 8:3 goes on to say, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from God’s mouth.”
In David’s case, it took ten years of tearing down as one-by-one all of the good things he’d once relied on got stripped away. Over the course of several chapters in 1 Samuel, God stripped David’s of just about everything:
- David lost his position. Overnight David went from Israel’s most popular figure to national pariah.
- David lost his wife. He had married King Saul’s daughter, Michal, but when David fled, Saul married her off to another man.
- David lost his mentor. About the time all this upheaval took place, Samuel died. So David lost his job, his family, and now he loses his spiritual mentor—the one who’d anointed him and guided him.
- David lost his best friend. If losing his job, wife, and mentor weren’t enough, he lost Jonathan. He was the one who had stood up to his own father, King Saul, risking his life to protect David. He warned David to flee, but since Jonathan was bound by loyalty to his troubled father, he could no longer see David. So these spiritual soul-mates parted ways, never to see each other again in life.
- David lost his country. At the end of I Samuel 21 David’s so desperate, with nowhere to hide, that he flees to Gath, the capital city of Israel’s arch-enemy, the Philistines. and home to the now dead Goliath. That’s how bad it got — David’s now seeking refuge in Gath among Goliath’s people.
- David lost his dignity. Finally, there in Gath, he reached bottom: “When David realized that he had been recognized, he panicked, fearing the worst from King Achish. (1 Samuel 21:13)
While the Philistine officers were looking at David, he pretended to go crazy, pounding his head on the city gate and foaming at the mouth, spit dripping from his beard. Achish took one look at him and said to his servants, “Can’t you see he’s crazy? Why’d you let him in here? Don’t you think I have enough crazy people to put up with as it is without adding another? Get him out of here!” (1 Samuel 21:14-15)
So David, expecting to be king with a kingdom ends up on the lam with no position, no people, no pastor, no partner, no pride—and no prospect that it would ever be different—stripped of every dependency.
Testing—the place in your life where every supporting prop gets kicked right out from beneath you. It is where you end up when you thought you were going to do great things for God, or have a great family, or have a successful career, and it becomes clear that things are not working out the way you’d dreamed.
For David, it was the most frustrating period in his life—but in hindsight, it turned out to be the most fruitful. That is because the place of testing and tearing down is also the place of forging and rebuilding. As an unknown poet said, it is the place where you are, “pressed into knowing no helper but God.”
Pressed into knowing no helper but God—that’s what happened to David. Through the discipline of that difficult season in his life, God was instructing David that God was his true source, and that was the one thing David would need to be a great king.
Guess what: God is teaching you how to “king it” too! Not very fun…but it is incredibly fruitful. And though we wouldn’t choose it for ourselves, thank God he tears us down to build us up!