I want to live the way David did, pursuing God’s heart
When I was 18 years old, I felt paralyzed in my relationship with God. I knew God was real, but my fancy prayers and daily devotionals were not cutting it. I was doing everything right, but it felt all wrong. Yet I still thought I was giving God what he wanted.
I began to question it all—and this good little Bible-belt girl somehow missed the rules for wrestling with God. As I surveyed my life, I realized doing all the right things had won me the admiration of everyone but God. And I felt empty and prideful. It was worse than rebellion—being good with no God. It was beginning to occur to me that maybe God was after something else.
That’s when I thought maybe I was chasing the wrong things. And then I found 1 Samuel 13. This is an incredibly dramatic part of the Bible, like a great Steven Spielberg movie. Saul was filled with fear; he was about to be attacked by the Philistines. He didn’t know what to do to save his life, and he realized he had not sought the Lord’s favor. Perhaps if he did that, God would save him!
Just then, Samuel appeared and said, “What is this you have done?” (verse 11). He told Saul he had done a foolish thing; he had been disobedient. He basically told Saul he was done. Finished.
Then Samuel told Saul that God was looking for a man after his own heart, someone he could appoint as ruler of his people, since Saul had messed up. He was talking, of course, about David. And that’s why we refer to him as a “man after God’s own heart.” But David wasn’t perfect either. Turns out our perfection is not what God is interested in. Phew! That’s a relief!
David was a wild, passionate warrior king, whose own messy story I had heard and whose psalms I had read a thousand times, but when I began to look a bit more closely at the life of this man, something about the way he related to God just wrecked me. (Check out 2 Samuel 12 and then read Psalm 22!) Yes, David committed murder and adultery—he was no missionary or priest. I saw this man as both completely sold out for God and completely broken. He was in love with God. And he lived with an acute awareness of his need for him. His view of God was so big, David actually believed God was real and lived like it.
In every one of us is a space that is screaming, saying there is something wrong, something missing. We all feel it—this chasm in us—and every one of us tries to fill it. We run hard after everything we can think of to fill it. This is just the way we cope, the way we survive. We need to fill it, so we do. We chase.
Many of us in Christian leadership are tired and burned out and can’t figure out why. I know I feel that way from time to time. It’s so easy to feel like I have to be really successful at my ministry, or else I’m neglecting the gifts God has given me. This can push me to work harder and longer than I probably should. And then I wonder why I’m worn out! And I’m not even sure what I’ve been chasing!
We usually chase good things. I want to be comfortable. I want to be liked. I want to be successful. I want to make a difference. I want to be respected. I want to be loved.
The desire to be effective in my ministry—or any of these other desires—isn’t bad until I want it more than God. I like things I can see, that make me feel good fast. When something aches…when something feels empty…it’s only natural to wake up every day and strive to fix it.
We will chase something. We were built to chase, to worship something. So will we chase what we see or chase an invisible God?
The more I have learned about the life of David, the more my ideas of what God wants from me have been shattered. David had one life and two eyes and one heart, just like me, but they were all laser-focused on the heart of his God…my God. David was in love with God.
Yes, David sinned and wrestled, just like I do. And while he was not so concerned about appearing godly, he was terribly concerned about knowing God. He was a man who saw past his circumstances, past himself, past this life to the heart of God.
David chased after God’s heart. And I think as a generation of women, we are longing to do the same. Unfortunately, we all are chasing things other than God.
I’ve discovered that when you look into the life of someone who’s chasing God alone, you start craving him, too. I want a life like David’s, brave and dependent and full of worship. He had a relationship with God unlike any other in Scripture, and honestly, unlike any other I’ve ever seen. I want to know God the way he did. I want to trust God as he did.
One of my great fears is that I will get to the end of my life and realize I lived for the wrong things. And honestly, there are many days when I forget that all the invisible stuff is real, and pleasing God is far from my thoughts and I just chase whatever I want—whatever seems to feel right in the moment. I seek happiness through friends, food, my kids, the approval of people, or wasting minutes on Facebook and catching up on TV shows. There are unending distractions for us to chase.
As a result, I think many of us are tired. And though we would like to please God, it feels like it would take a lot of effort to do that. The more I understand what God has done, the more I quit striving and simply rest in him. David chased God, but part of that meant resting in the work of God, in God’s favor, and in the plans God had written for him. Whether you are running from God or working your tail off to please him, David’s journey will challenge your view of God—it has mine.
Jennie Allen serves alongside her husband, Zac, at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. She is a mother of four and the author of Chase, a DVD-based Bible study for women (Thomas Nelson).