Have you ever noticed how much of a mess emotions can make of things? Whether high or low, happy or sad, emotions take us on rides that so frequently distance us from reality. Especially the reality of God’s truth.
In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel is in one of those emotional messes. He is grieving. Deeply. In fact, he’s so deep in his grief that God has to give him a wake-up call by asking how long he’s going to grieve over Saul. God is ready to point out His new choice for king, but Samuel can’t seem to let go of his hurt over the current king’s lack of obedience and hungering after God.
So, God gives Samuel an assignment. And this is where we see an atypical response from Samuel: he argues with God. Such a response is normal for some of the other characters of the Bible, but Samuel? He doesn’t typically argue, at least based on what is recorded in Scripture. But, his grief seems to have overwhelmed him to the point that his trust is weakened and his sensitivity is diminished. Not only does he show fear of Saul, but he is also caught up in external appearances instead of being in tune with God’s vision.
What I love about all of this is that God is right there with and for Samuel the whole time. He doesn’t stop using Samuel just because he’s grieving. He doesn’t say, “You’re not fit to do this job!” just because Samuel’s spiritual vision has been dulled by his grief. He doesn’t even remind Samuel to just trust His mighty hand like He might have in other situations. Instead, He walks him through it. Recognizing the limitations to what Samuel is able to give, God gives Samuel a crutch to lean on to deal with his grief-induced fear. And, He patiently reminds Samuel where his vision needs to be when accomplishing God’s work.
Even the greatest of us get overwhelmed by emotions. They fry our brains and warp our perceptions. They make us forget our great God and focus on the immediate. Like Samuel saw only Saul, we only see the source of our emotional upheaval. We don’t see truth. Reality. God.
The beautiful things about it is that God responds with us as He responded with Samuel – right where we are. He gives us that shove we need to begin to move past where we are, but He does not demand more than we can give. We might think it’s more than we can give, but it’s not. It’s just enough to push us out of our despair. To move us past our grief. To remind us that we have a job to do, that He provides all we need to do the job, and that He has a plan and a vision that far exceeds our own.
And just like Samuel, we can move beyond our emotions and back to work, furthering God’s kingdom in powerful ways.