Mercy Beats Depression After Trauma

Dan Sullivan   -  

[1] It was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” [2] So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” [3] And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. [4] The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” [5] Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines, [6] because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. [7] Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the LORD, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.”

2 Samuel 19:1–7 ESV Read More
King David is a pretty complex guy. He fully considers and really feels a lot of the events that happen to him. You can tell some of this from reading the Psalms. This situation where his son rebelled against him and then lost the civil war is complex. David can be glad that he can continue to be king, but the pain of the loss of his own son is much greater. He even says at one point that he’d rather Absalom live as the king and he himself be dead. 
Joab’s advice seems wise, even though it sounds harsh. If David doesn’t thank all of the people that rallied for him and fought for him, they may turn on him. He has to say something to the rest of the kingdom that followed Saul too. Remember, in that short civil war, at least 20,000 men died in the forests of Ephraim. There were families that lost multiple brothers and fathers in that fight beyond David losing his son. 
David does a great thing as he returns to Jerusalem. He recognizes that this trauma was a big deal for everyone else as well as himself. He doesn’t dwell on his own problems or concerns but looks to the needs of others. Shimei and Mephibosheth both seek the favor of David and he shows them mercy. Shimei is almost killed on the spot by Abishai (whose slogan is “Let me kill him” at this point!) and Mephibosheth has all kinds of stuff going on. He hasn’t washed himself or his beard since David left and he claims that Ziba, his servant, lied about him. David lets Shimei live because enough men have died, and Mephibosheth splits the land with Ziba, so they both get the benefit of the doubt. 
Studies have proven that helping others and focusing on the needs of other people will help ease depression. I don’t think it’s the effect of seeing that other people have it worse as much as it is taking the focus off of yourself that brings this about. Throughout the scriptures, the people that put others’ needs above their own turn out to be more blessed and closer to the Lord. David shows that forgiving your enemies or returning a blessing to those that have cared for you all play a role in restoring your soul. 

Philippians 2:3–4 ESV [3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

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