We shouldn’t be surprised when great leaders implode, when their inner lives cave in dramatic fashion. We should grieve, pray, and love, but we shouldn’t think ourselves better and we shouldn’t be caught off guard.
David, a man after God’s own heart, imploded spiritually, and this adversely impacted lots of lives in the process. Sadly, when leaders implode, they aren’t the only ones impacted. And if David, the king of Israel, can self-destruct—surely I can too. After all, I haven’t penned any psalms, expressed kindness to an enemy to the degree in which David expressed kindness to Saul, led God’s people into war and then worshiped, or killed the representative head of a pagan army. My leadership resume falls way short of David’s.
Yet we can learn from David’s internal implosion, a disaster that was externally expressed in adultery with Bathsheba, subsequent murder, and an elaborate cover-up. The first few verses of 2 Samuel 11 provides some insight. If you want to self-destruct as a leader, follow these simple principles:
1) Isolate yourself
David isolated himself. He sent all his men off to war, but he remained in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1). Some servants remained with David, but not the men who would speak truth into his life, not the men who would challenge his soul.
If you only surround yourself with people who validate anything you want or desire, you’re actually isolated with merely the impression of community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Sin demands to have a man by himself,” and a leader can be by himself in the midst of others if he stops seeking or receiving counsel and correction from wise leaders.
2) Leave boredom unchecked
At other times in David’s life, he thought about the Lord through the watches of the night (Psalm 63:6). But not on the night he discovered Bathsheba. On that night he strolled around the roof, bored, looking for something—looking for something to capture his heart and attention (2 Samuel 11:2).
Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” When we lose our awe for God, when we are bored with Him, then something else, something less, will capture our hearts. If we sense our awe for Him waning, we are wise to do whatever we can to stir our affections for Him.
3) Think you are awesome
David reached a dangerous place in his leadership where he believed he was above some of his responsibilities. For example, it was spring, a time when kings go to war, but he stayed home. He knew Bathsheba was married, but it didn’t matter. He had grown accustomed to getting what he wanted, whenever he wanted it. Pride and entitlement grows like a cancer in our souls.
We are wise to ask the Lord to search our hearts. If isolation, boredom, or pride are taking root in your heart—by all means, repent now. Receive His grace and forgiveness. They are richer and deeper than all your sin.