In my devotional time of late, I have been studying the life of David. I have done this study before and have been looking forward to further insights about this man after God’s own heart. But, I have been struck more by another man in the story, Saul: a man with a heart of discontent.
Saul has often been studied and taught about as a ‘leader gone bad’ example. I think I often times have felt more like Saul than David if I honestly look at my heart. Saul had so much going for him. Saul was the first king of Israel and had a reign of forty-two years. But early in his reign, something went terribly wrong. We see the weakness of Saul’s heart come into focus. In I Samuel 13, shortly after Saul took office as king, he found himself in a quandary. He was going into battle with the Philistines and Saul had agreed to wait for the Lord’s prophet, Samuel, to arrive to anoint the army for battle and to sacrifice the burnt offering prior to battle. Seems simple enough, wait for the Lord’s man to arrive before beginning the task at hand. And it seems logical enough from Saul’s perspective that when the guy doesn’t show up for a meeting on time you go on ahead without him with the task at hand. Besides, Saul was king and in charge.
But Samuel was not any ordinary guy and this was not any ordinary task or arrangement. In Saul’s haste, fear, and discontent he decided to take matters into his own hands, and he disobeyed the Lord’s command. When Samuel arrives on the scene he asks Saul in verse 11, ‘What have you done?’ Saul’s response resembles his fear and his thinking, ‘When I saw that the men were scattering and you did not show at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor. So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering” (I Samuel 13:11-12). Samuel replies, ‘You acted foolishly. You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you” (v.13).
Saul felt compelled to take things into his own hands. What drives a man to make a decision like that? Why didn’t he remember his commitment and the Lord’s command? What came over him? I think I know because I have been like Saul. I have jumped into the deep end before looking.
Saul’s example brings up some painful memories in my own heart. Memories of times that I have made quick decisions out of discontent. Looking back over my recovery I have had to ask myself some tough questions. How many times have I in my discontent made a quick or rash decision? How many times have I, out of fear that my wife won’t see my needs, moved towards pleasing myself and breaking covenant with her? What is it about that discontent that causes me to take things into my own hands and not wait patiently for the process or for the Lord to come to me?
I wanted so badly to be like David, a man after God’s own heart but I first had to look at the Saul inside of me. Discontent often consists of two ingredients: impatience and self-centeredness. We see it with Saul’s decision to not wait for Samuel out of his concern for how his army would see him and his need to be in control and in charge. For me as an addict those two things were two key ingredients that led to my immediate gratification of what I desired most. Now I don’t know if Saul was a sex addict but he seems to have had some of the same underlying features that I have seen in my own discontented and shame filled heart at times. No matter what condition of the heart Saul struggled with, sex or otherwise, his discontentment led to some pretty impatient or immediate decisions to gratify his heart. A discontented heart is often soothed through immediate gratification.
Immediate gratification has been something my heart has known well. If emotional intimacy was too overwhelming or if anger raged in my heart or if fear gripped my soul, soothing those ills through sexual acting out brought immediate relief.
I wonder if Saul felt trapped. I can imagine him saying in that moment when he saw his troops running away, ‘I’ve got to do something. This is too much. I’ve got to be seen and in control. Why doesn’t God answer me?’ Do you ever feel like Saul? Trapped and feeling like there is no Samuel on the way or no help just around the corner. Or maybe you have often felt like you have waited long enough. Like Saul, time to go ahead and sacrifice the burnt offering. The pain and discomfort is too much. You might hear yourself saying something like, ‘Why must I continue to always take the high road? Or why doesn’t she let up on me and see me for what I have been doing for her and our life together?’ Out of our discontent we have chosen too often the path of least resistance. I don’t believe we do this just because we are rebellious or bent on destructing our lives. I believe we do it out of moving towards what we have trained ourselves for years to do in those situations.
The answer to this dilemma lies in the waiting. We have got to learn to wait. Wait. Man, have I at times hated that word. To wait meant I was not necessarily going to be in control of the outcome. To wait meant that I was not always going to get a quick end to my situation. To wait meant I would have to trust. Trust. What if Saul would have waited, trusted, and obeyed? What if I had waited so many times before choosing to gratify myself in sexual sin? What I have found is that when I wait I grow a little less likely to make haste out of my discontent. When I wait, a little more of that tendency to immediately gratify myself diminishes. When I wait, I grow a little bit more in resting and taking refuge in the promises of the Lord rather than retreating to the doom of my shame and contempt of my sin.
‘I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). Written by Saul’s successor to the throne. The man after God’s own heart seemed to know something about waiting. My dear brothers, when you feel the weight of discontent on your heart, wait and take refuge in the Lord. He will hear your cry and turn to you.
Lord, help me to wait for you. Take away my discontent and replace it with Your peace. I trust You will hear my cry and turn to me. Hold me as I wait. I love You and trust You. In Jesus name, Amen.