“You get what you deserve!” Oh, they might not say that to your face, but you can tell that sentiment is behind the blaming questions and impatient sighs. So goes my thoughts. Or you might experience an overt attack such as King David as he ascended to the Mount of Olives, “head covered, bare feet, weeping” (II Samuel 15:30). Instead of joining in sorrow with his king who had to flee from his own son, a certain man Shimei from the house of Saul, went along the hillside opposite him [David] and cursed as he went, threw stones at David, and kicked up dust (16:13). My first thought is why did God allow this to happen to David? Perhaps this was a case when “God gave them over to a debased mind to do those things which are not fitting…unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…” (Romans 1).
Thinking this way leads to anger, and like Abishai, David’s loyal nephew, we might start shouting, “Off with his head!” My next thought is why should those who are prideful and godless be allowed to rub into the dirt the weary, tear-stained face of the grieving? If allowed to stay on this destructive path of thinking, feeling, and reacting, David’s wise answer challenges Abishai. First David acknowledges that adversity may be part of God’s discipline for sin (think Bathsheba, II Sam. 11:4). Accepting the cursing, not reacting with vengeance. Secondly, David proclaims that God’s mercy may follow; “It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his [Shimei’s] cursing this day,” (16:12). This is a direct challenge to the notion that God has abandoned David.
Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) is a gold standard in the counseling profession for treating clinical anxiety, depression, bipolar, and other disorders. The focus of CBT work is to help the client to challenge negative self-talk and beliefs with positive, constructive statements that are believable, create higher expectations, and elevate mood. Changing the way we think changes the way we feel and increases the potential for behaviors that lead to a more peaceful life. In the brief discourse between King David and Abishai, we have an example of how CBT works. Instead of dwelling on the humiliating situation as proof that God no longer loves him and is intent on destroying him because of his sin, David’s bare feet continued up the Mount of Olives to worship his God. David’s thoughts about God refreshed his spirit and encouraged making the right next step.
What was the result of his choice? It is believed that at the time of David’s flight out of Jerusalem, he wrote Psalm 3. The Psalm illustrates the powerful effect that right thinking and right behaviors have on the psyche. Instead of worry, anxiety, or depression, David describes enjoying a night of peace. “I lay down and slept; I awoke for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people.”
When I hear the nagging inner voice condemn, or the misguided comments from strangers that threaten my peace, I will recall the faithful and hopeful words of King David,
“O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land…Because Your lovingkindness is better than life…” (Psalm 63:1-3). CBT is a great method for change, but God’s word is the most powerful agent of change that I know.