A mentor of mine once said, “I think it’s important to preach like there’s a broken heart on every pew. That’s always been a phrase that stuck with me. Not everybody is having a tough time, but you can bet your buck that there’s a good tenth of your church that’s going through a hard season. There really is a broken heart on every pew.”
You never quite know who will be sitting in church on a Sunday morning. And you never know what is going on in their heart while they are sitting there. Maybe there is guilt from a poor decision. Shame over a broken promise. Sadness due to a ruptured relationship.
And they don’t quite know what they will receive. Some churches major in criticism when Jesus calls for his followers to show compassion. A person sitting in the pew might wonder which they will be handed.
David may have wondered the same. He’s on the run. It is no secret now that Saul wants him dead. He’s confused. Maybe angry. Feeling alone. It wasn’t that long ago he was in the pastures enjoying an obscure life singing to sheep. Before he knew it he was singing for Saul. By the time he killed Goliath the entire nation was singing his praises. Paparazzi followed his every step. TMZ caught him for a sound bite whenever they could.
And now David has to find a place he can go where he can be safe. He runs without even packing his bags. But he can’t go to Bethlehem—that might endanger his family. He certainly can’t go into the land of the Philistines—they’d want revenge for their giants and foreskins. So David ran.
Where do you run when you find yourself in trouble? When your heart is broken? When you may ask, “Where is the Lord in my life?” Some run to drinking. Some run to the arms of someone new. Some run to another experience in another town.
And some even run to church. That’s where David ran. He went to Nob where he found a sanctuary and a priest. He is hungry and he needs a weapon so he does what you’d expect a person “after God’s own heart” would do. He lies.
Ahimelech the priest is forced to make a decision. His task is to keep the sanctuary holy. The only food available is the “bread of the Presence.” The law said it was only for the priests to eat. He could hold the letter of the law and refuse it to David and his men. He could keep things tidy and quiet. He could criticize David for lying.
Or he could out of love show compassion. And that’s what he did. He gave David the bread and the only weapon on hand: Goliath’s sword.
David’s life is not one to emulate at every point. This story does not give us grounds to lie our way through our life. But David’s life is a real life. He’s confused, maybe angry, and feeling like the walls are coming down all around him. He’s doing the best he can to get through his days.
You may be feeling the same way. And in your attempts to figure your way through the maze of your months you’ve said and done things you wish you hadn’t. If so, do what David did. Keep turning to God. That is the part of his story we are to mimic.
And find a sanctuary, a church. David needed bread for the day and a blade for the next. A church that is tasked with helping people connect to God will offer bread for the day—the Word of God—and a blade for the next—the spiritual armor to help you fight the real fight.
You never quite know who will be sitting next to you in church. Ahimelech was surprised to see David. And if, like David, your heart is broken and you’re looking for some bread and a sword, do what he did. Run to the church and find a priest. You’ll find what you need there. You might even surprise a person or two.
Question: Where do you run when your heart is broken?