Memories (Part 3)

On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. (2 Samuel 12:18-20 ESV).

We continue with the progression of things that we can do to manage and overcome the pain of our losses. I am using the experience of David when his first child by Bathsheba died. Today’s reading shows David moving from his great show of sorrow and grief to an incredible position in his faith in God. The last verse of our reading says, “then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothing” (v. 20). This is the second principle for us: wash your face.

After David wept and grieved, the Scripture recounts that he “washed his face.” I know that’s a bit difficult for us to understand. This is more than merely drying his tears. It is a very intentional movement in a different direction emotionally and spiritually. I like the imagery. He takes a cloth and wipes the salty streaks from his cheeks. It is a means of describing the act of letting the soothing water move across his skin; he is taking steps to being refreshed through the redirection of his thoughts. It is his way of changing his focus to the Lord and the future he has determined for us. This is a deliberate act, a choice to refocus. When I refocus, I take my eyes off my problems, and shift them onto the Lord. It is an intentional act to trust God. Trust him even when the situation looks impossible. Trust him that he is working for your good. Trust him that he knows your best path and is in control.

There was a reason I began this little series with Romans 8:28. It is the definitive passage on the provenance of God and our good. The context shows that in a groaning, heaving world, God’s concern is conforming his children to Christ’s image. And he works through the challenging circumstances of our lives to develop our Christlikeness. In the parallel passage of the Old Testament, Joseph said to his brothers (who’d sold him into slavery), “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (cf. Genesis 50:20). “God meant it for good” indicates God didn’t merely make the best of a bad situation; rather, fully aware of what Joseph’s brothers would do, and freely permitting their sin, God intended that the bad situation be used for good. He did so in accordance with his plan from eternity past. God’s children have “been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (cf. Ephesians 1:11). This trust allows us to wash our face. It is this step that allows us to move forward. Perhaps it’s your step today.