The Benefits of Breakdowns

Who would’ve ever guessed it?

Out of the blue came this nobody. He had spent his years away from the crowded streets of the city, working for his father in the quiet yet rugged outdoors. Had someone asked anybody in his day if they had ever heard of him, a blank stare and a quick “Who?” would have been the answer.

Then suddenly, he was the most famous young man in the country…his name a household word. They even wrote a song about him, which everybody knew before long. He was the original skyrocket-success story. It should have swept the kid off his feet.

If it did, nobody knew it. He couldn’t wait to retreat back to the hills where life was simple, uncluttered.

That first night back under the stars must have been a restless one as he entertained mental flashbacks to the frightening scene of battle in the valley. The intimidating sound of the giant’s voice as it echoed across the vale. The rush of patriotic zeal through his veins. The grabbing of those smooth stones…the deadening thud as rock met forehead…the shout of triumph…the admiring look of dismay from the tall Israeli king. But now, all the stargazer heard was silence. He was back where he belonged…back where he loved to be. Away from the heady limelight.

He drifted off to sleep with a smile as the sheep lay all around him.

Little did the young David know of the hellish nightmare he would encounter in the coming months. But there were slumbering chords within him that only the trials of life could vibrate. God’s way would lead him into dark valleys he would never have imagined.

The events that followed that quiet night’s sleep defied logic. Even though David had conducted himself with humility, loyalty, and integrity, the man whose face he had saved turned against him. King Saul literally went mad. Displeased by a popularity that wasn’t his, insecure over his own eclipsed public image, possessed by demonic thoughts that ranged between rage and murder, Saul became a human savage. The king, driven by suspicion and jealousy, lived with one haunting passion—David’s death.

In spite of this tragic twist in their relationship, David prospered. Three times in the biographical account we read that fact (1 Samuel 18:5, 14–15). In addition, David “behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul” (18:30 NASB). This led to even greater popularity, increased favour in the eyes of Saul’s inner circle, military victories, and enormous praise from the public. David wasn’t strutting, but the praise gushed in such a flood, he could not escape the fame.

David found himself in a complicated jam, sandwiched between public applause and private horror. Saul’s sharp spear was never far away. For more than a dozen years, David was forced to run for his life and live like a fugitive.

Someone has said: “For every one who can handle prosperity, there are a hundred who can handle adversity.” Before long, however, adversity became David’s constant companion. He must have wondered if he would ever be relieved of Saul’s threatening shadow.

It is easy to forget that two magnificent and lasting benefits were born out of that womb of woe: first, the deepening of much of David’s character and, second, the composing of many of David’s psalms. The traits we remember and admire as being worthy of emulation were shaped, honed, and polished while David lived like a hunted animal in the wilderness. Great character, like massive roots, grows deep when water is sparse and winds are strong. And the psalms we now turn to for comfort most often emerged from David’s broken heart while tears wouldn’t stop and questions went unanswered. Great music, like massive rivers, must come from torrential rains in order to keep flowing, leading to the splendour and vastness of ocean-like depths.

And where are you today? Has there been a recent breakdown? A trust no longer there? A friend no longer near? A dream no longer clear? A future no longer bright? Fears now where there was once laughter and companionship? Misunderstanding now instead of support, affirmation, and admiration? Maybe a Saul stalking your steps, sharpening his spear, waiting for just the right moment to lunge?

Take heart! It is in this precise crucible that God can (and often does) do His best work!

Your lot, like David’s, may defy logic. But some of your best traits and some of your finest contributions will emerge from this incredibly painful period in your life.

Ask David…who would’ve never guessed it.