More often than I care to admit I come across a book that seems like it was written just for me. I say that I don’t care to admit that because these aren’t books about winning at parenting, nailing a solid devotional life, or cracking the secret to my Best Life Now. No, I’m talking about the books that light up the biggest areas of sin in my life like a glowing neon sign. Eric Geiger’s How to Ruin Your Life: And Starting Over When You Do illustrates from the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) the ease with which I can bring ruin to my own life.
David was called a man after God’s own heart. He gave us wonderful, timeless Psalms like Psalm 23 and we hold him up as one who in many ways was a prefiguring of Jesus. But David wasn’t perfect and sometimes the lessons we learn from his life are those of what not to do. When it comes to his tragic downfall through the taking of Bathsheba, Geiger points to three lessons; three traits that David failed to handle correctly that led to his ruin, and could just as easily lead to mine too.
First, David’s downfall was caused by isolation. David remained in his palace while his servants and all Israel went out to battle (2 Samuel 11:1). This left David more vulnerable to making foolish decisions—enter Bathsheba—because those who normally acted as his checks and balances were nowhere to be seen. In choosing to withdraw from those people who would say something when he needed it, David succumbed to sin.
Scripture connects walking in the light with having fellowship with other believers; walking in holiness with living in community. A drift from Christian community is an inevitable drift into darkness. A step away from community is a step towards implosion. Geiger writes
The Christian faith is not an independent faith but an interdependent one, a faith that relies on other believers for encouragement, care, prayer, forgiveness, and support…
…To set yourself up for an implosion, simply fail to surround yourself with people who will say something to you when they see your life unattended. To implode, choose isolation over community.
The story of David’s implosion reminds me that anyone can fall. My sin needs to be kept in check, and the body of Christ is the place God has designed for these checks and balances to be. I’m reminded that it’s when I am alone that I’m most tempted to ignore my responsibilities, let my guard down, and give in to my sinful nature.
Second, David’s downfall was caused by boredom. Geiger points out that boredom isn’t simply ‘having nothing to do’ as though David the king had some lack in his life for things to occupy his time. Rather, boredom is more fully understood as ‘the unfulfilled desire for satisfaction’. David’s ruin came because when he was bored, he forgot the joy of his salvation and took his eyes off God.
Like David, my problem isn’t a lack of things to take up my time. And (unlike David) while my boredom will likely never lead to adultery, I’m confronted with the question that asks “how often am I unfaithful to God in my sin because in moments of boredom I failed to avert my eyes from temptation and instead fix them on the one who saved my soul?” The nineteenth-century theologian Thomas Chalmers writes of our desire for Jesus overshadowing all other needs, calling it “the expulsive power of a greater affection”. To avoid ruin in the face of temptation, I must see Christ as my all-satisfying Saviour.
Finally, David’s downfall was caused by pride. Upon realising the seriousness of his sin, David could have owned his failure and approached Bathsheba’s husband in humility and repentance. Instead, he plotted to cover his sin with yet more sin; arranging to have Uriah killed and taking Bathsheba for himself. Only when finally confronted by Nathan the prophet in 2 Samuel 12:1-15 did David write Psalm 51 out of desperate repentance.
Geiger writes of the lesson for me
Continuing in our pride is what will lead to our ruin. The way to avoid self-destruction is to recongise our pride and quickly repent, to own it and fall fast.
My pride is possibly my biggest sin. I struggle with correction and find it even harder to own my failures to my wife and children. And just like David, too often I try to cover the sin with more sin, which only makes the inevitable failure more tragic and costly. But I’m grateful that the story of David doesn’t end there, rather it points me to the truth that no matter how I ruin my life God’s grace continues to be greater than my sin.
Geiger tells us that when David rejected community, he fell short of God’s design for relationships. When David lusted after Bathsheba, he missed the mark of God’s holy love. When David was bored, he missed the mark by failing to reflect on God’s beauty. When he plotted Uriah’s murder, he missed the mark of trusting God as the giver and taker of life. When he attempted the elaborate cover-up, he fell short of God’s truthfulness. Through every stage in his fall, David missed the mark.
If you’re reading this and—like me—feel confronted by the sting of your own failures, Geiger reminds you and me that from the union of David and Bathsheba came Solomon, and the sacred lineage continued all the way to Jesus. God fashioned a beautiful story from the mess David made of his life, and God can fashion a beautiful story from our ruin too.