God created us with a high capacity for passion, and that’s a wonderful thing. Much of the good that has been accomplished in the world began in passion. But while passion is a powerful spring, it’s a horrible regulator, and when it’s untempered, can do much harm. So how do you temper your passion? Internal and external controls—develop the fruit of self-control, but also give cool-headed friends access to the kill switch of your passion for those moments when your self-control get wobbly.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 25:10-13
“Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” So David’s young men returned and told him what Nabal had said. “Get your swords!” was David’s reply as he strapped on his own. Then 400 men started off with David to kill Nabal.
David heart was on fire with passion for God—he was characteristically a man after God’s own heart. But at times, David’s heart was on fire with passion for other things, too. That got David into trouble on more than one occasion. 1 Samuel 25 is one of those occasions.
Nabal, a man whose name meant “fool,” foolishly refused to share provision with David and his men. David had politely requested it, and it would have been customary for Nabal to graciously grant such a request since David’s small army had afforded Nabal and his ranching operation protection from thieves and marauders that harassed the locals. Not only did Nabal refuse, he insulted David to the men who had made the request. When they reported back to David what this fool had said, David’s knee-jerk response was, “strap ‘em on boys, we going to make Nabal pay up—with his life.”
Now it just so happened that this brutish man, Nabal, had a lovely and wise wife, Abigail. Sensing the looming disaster, she skillfully intervenes—intercedes really—with David and averts the death of her husband and destruction of all that he owned. However, when Nabal found out what his wife had done, rather than react with gratitude, he went into such a rage that he had a stroke or a heart attack, or something really bad, and died!
Among the many streams of life application from which we might drink in this story, the one I want to call to you attention is David’s unregulated passion. Let it stand as a warning to us that when we let anger rule our emotions, we are in danger of allowing it to ruin our lives. Anger almost ruined David’s life on this occasion—had he followed through on it, he would have been guilty of murder.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that passion is a powerful spring, but a bad regulator. It will get you motivated, but don’t depend on it to manage you. David’s passion got away from him—he let it regulate his emotions—and it led him to the brink of doing something really dumb.
Which, by the way, I think, is why we love David so much—he was so thoroughly human. In David, we don’t get the polished ideal to which we aspire but never attain, we get a rough-edged reality in a meandering journey of spiritual transformation. And we can relate to a guy like that. You’ve got to love a guy who’s capable of unmitigated dumbness. But you certainly don’t want to follow his dumb ways. In this moment, David was full of passion but empty of God—in an instant, he’s become a fool. He was on the verge of becoming Saul.
And that is where Abigail comes in. She steps in and puts David in touch again with the beauty of God as David had done for Saul in the cave (1 Samuel 24:16-21). Through Abigail, David realized who he was, he recognized what he was about to do, and he remembered what his life was destined for. Thankfully, on that day, cooler heads prevailed.
God created us with a high capacity for passion, and that is a wonderful thing. Much of the good that has been accomplished in the world began in passion. But, as Emerson noted, while passion is a powerful spring, it is a horrible regulator, and when it is untempered, can do much harm. How do we temper our passion? Internal and external controls—we must develop the fruit of self-control internally then empower cool-headed friends externally and give them access to the kill switch of passion.
Make sure to cultivate a cool head. But on the occasion when emotions get the best of you and you shift into hothead, make sure you check in with your Abigail.
Without exception and at all times, let cooler heads prevail.