12 Things We Can Learn From King David About Responding to Adversity
This article is based upon a lecture delivered at St. Thomas’ Theological College, Karachi, Pakistan, on January 15, 2020.
Adversity in life is inevitable. Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). King David, called a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), experienced much adversity throughout his lifetime.
One instance of great adversity in David’s life was the rebellion of his son, Absalom. No other event so stirred him to psalm writing as this one did—twelve psalms are commonly attributed to King David during this period of his life. His response to adversity in these twelve psalms serves as a model for how we should respond to adversity as well.
1. He Relied on God for Help
“O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.’ But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Ps. 3:1-3).
King David never lost sight of God’s help. In great grief, there is often great danger. Yet when provoked by his enemies, David knew he had nowhere else he could go but to God. Not overwhelmed by his circumstances, it was as though he looked his problems in the face and said, “So what?”
2. He Waited on the Lord
In Psalm 27:4, we read these words from David: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14). In this, King David expressed a humble resignation to God’s will in expectation of better times.
3. He Worshiped
“Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy” (Ps. 28:6). David praised God. Specifically, he gave thanks. Supplications, or pleas for mercy, poured from David’s heart.
4. He was Mindful of God’s Will
“I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8). Think of the context of this verse: it seemed to David like life was falling apart. Yet, God’s will was foremost in his mind and heart.
5. He Humbled Himself
“I said, ‘O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!’” (Ps. 41:4)
Sin and suffering are united as inevitable companions. But where sin is the sickness of the soul; pardoning mercy brings healing. Notice King David does not say, “Heal me because I am innocent.” Quite the contrary!
6. He Sought the Lord
“As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2a). King David wanted more than mere religion. He wanted the living God. He knew the Lord was his last refuge.
7. He Reasoned with & Encouraged Himself
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps. 43:5).
King David chided his despondent soul as he communed with his own heart. He engaged in a strict scrutiny of the reasons for why he felt the way he did and concluded that there are limits on sorrow.
8. He Shared Insight
“Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Ps. 55:22).
David did not wait to share about all the ways God had provided thus far. This declaration of God’s sovereign protection and love is a theme throughout the Bible. Similarly, in 1 Peter 5:7 (in The Living Translation), we read, “After you have suffered a little while, our God, who is full of kindness through Christ, will give you his eternal glory. He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever.”
9. He Saw Light at the End of the Tunnel.
“For God will save Zion..” (Ps. 69:35). Along with the Palestinian imagery, there is a tenor that speaks of God’s care for his church today.
10. He Prayed for the Overthrow of Evildoers
“Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life! Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt!” (Ps. 70:2). Just as a man after God’s own heart did this long ago, so may we presently.
11. He Maintained Resolve & Determination
“But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more” (Ps. 71:14). King David’s resolve and determination to hope in the Lord was established and active. As Charles Spurgeon said, “When I cannot rejoice in what I have, I will look forward to what shall be mine and will still rejoice.” David clearly did this as well!
12. He Drew Encouragement from the Past
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the works of your hands” (Ps. 143:5). Just as King David was, we can be encouraged by God’s dealings with his people—both in ages past and present.
When we go through adversity, may we, as Christians, draw guidance and hope from the life and psalms of King David.