Good Grief

David and BathshebaMiddle Eastern houses had flat roofs which were usable living spaces.  One day King David (1040-970 BC) was strolling around on his palace roof when he noticed a neighbor lady bathing on her roof. Her beauty captured his attention, and he stared lustfully at her body.

“I must have her,” he told his servant, and the servant was dispatched to deliver a “the-king-wants-you-to-have-an-audience-with-him” message. You couldn’t say “No” to the king, so “Bathsheba” put on her finest make-up and dress and left with the servant.

From the beginning, King David had lecherous intentions, so he plied Bathsheba with wine, delicious food, and his full attention.  “Let’s adjourn to my bedroom,” he said, Bathsheba’s inhibitions thoroughly anesthetized by the wine and luxury.

David’s conscience was also asleep.  Otherwise he would not have been able to do what he did – impregnate Bathsheba and kill her husband to cover his guilt.  All he felt was the heat of the moment, the fire in his loins, and the passion of her kisses.  His moral-self confused by intoxication, everything he did seemed so right.


A servant delivered a note from Bathsheba to King David a few weeks after the tryst.  “The pregnancy kit turned blue,” the note said.  “You’re going to be a daddy.”  It was not what David wanted to hear. His people took a dim view of people who couldn’t control their passions.

But his sin against Bathsheba, his people, and God had not run its course.  So David hatched a plot to cover up the crime – kill Bathsheba’s husband Uriah.  Once Uriah was out of the picture as a witness, people would think that this pregnancy was his.

The plot was completed, but David’s moral-self woke up from its stupor.  The guilt was oppressive and crushing.  “Create in me a clean heart,” he begged God.  “Take away the deep ache from my soul.”

Writing centuries later, the apostle Paul said that grief caused by personal failure can take two tracks.  One is merely sorrow about being caught, like a Washington politician.  It often results in anger toward those who are offended by the sin and an “I’m-sorry-you’re-angry” or “shucks-I-got-caught” sort of apology.  Paul said this kind of grief is deadly because it doesn’t address the problem or cause any change in behavior.

The other kind of grief leads its possessor through four steps: 1)  honest admission of the wrong committed, 2) deep regret for having committed the wrong, 3) awakening of passion for God and a desire to rebuild that relationship, and 4) a purposeful change in the behavior that caused the sin.  This kind of grief is healthy and leads to life.

David is called “a man after God’s own heart” precisely because of his humility and honesty.  Though he made plenty of mistakes, he possessed a keen and open heart.

Reflecting on his sin, David said, “a broken heart is the best gift you can offer God.”  It’s also the only healthy response.