There’s no getting around it—David went through a lot. Imagine having the leader of your nation hurl spears at you, send men to lie in wait to kill you, and hunt for you for years on end. Imagine fleeing your country to live among your fiercest enemies, people who despise the God you love. Imagine being forced to live in deserts and on your feet, constantly moving, totally rootless, cut off from family, friends, and home. That was David’s life—hard, wearying, frustrating.
And yet, I wonder whether David’s crudelest trial wasn’t the long delay in getting to work on his assigned job. He had been ordained to be king of Israel, so he knew what he was supposed to do. And he clearly wanted to do it. Scripture leaves no doubt that David was ambitious to accomplish great things for God. He wanted to be king, to fight his Lord’s battles and defeat Israel’s enemies, to establish justice in the land. He wanted to lead Israel in covenant obedience. But God seemed to take His time in fulfilling His promise to give David the kingship.
To his credit, David was extraordinarily patient. Twice he had the opportunity to accelerate his career by killing Saul, but he resisted the temptation both times. Furthermore, he ran from fight after fight, declining to engage Saul even though it must have galled him to appear so cowardly. However, the strain of waiting sometimes overwhelmed him, leading David to conclude (erroneously) that he would never get to the throne, whereupon he typically went off on some course of his own devising. First Samuel 27:1 contains the best example.
Obviously, God was not as eager to receive David’s service as David was to render it. We see this clearly when David became consumed with building a temple for God. At that point, God tugged on the reins, telling David that he would not build a house for God, but God would build a house for him (2 Sam. 7:11).
Through it all, David learned to trust God to work out His will in His time. He could finally say, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7a).
We are often filled with an eagerness to do things for God. But Scripture shows that God is less concerned with what we do for Him than with what we become through Him. Yes, He has assigned tasks to His church and gifted believers to accomplish them. But on an individual level, we need to learn the lesson God drove home to David. We need to be less concerned with working for God and more concerned with resting in Him.