Connections 08.08.2021: Complications

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 14-15, 31-33

I’ve recently read a novel and watched a television series that each featured a similar subplot. The main character in the novel and one of the lead characters in the series each had a mother whose choices and resulting circumstances (or circumstances and resulting choices) had placed them in difficult situations. The mothers’ situations in turn put their daughters, one of whom was a lawyer and the other a police officer, in complicated predicaments. At the end of the novel, the lawyer’s mother was still alive and had a shot at redemption. But the police officer’s mother had died.

Those two stories depict some challenging family dynamics. But our real families face

challenges too. Complicated situations make for complicated relationships and complicated relationships make for complicated situations.

People we love can make choices that cause us pain. We can make choices that cause our loved ones pain. Such pain can be deep. Such pain can linger. Such pain can be hard to get past.

The story of King David and his son Absalom is the story of such a complicated relationship. David’s family was racked by strife and beset by tragedy. David’s troubled relationship with Absalom came to a head when the son undertook a coup against the father. The attempted coup ended with Absalom’s death, which occurred despite David’s stated desire that his son’s life be spared.

When David receives word that Absalom has died, he expresses his grief with some of the saddest words in the Bible: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Perhaps we can understand David’s grieving Absalom’s death despite Absalom’s rebellion. After all, Absalom was still his son despite everything. But maybe David grieved more than the death of his son. Maybe he also grieved the decisions and choices on both their parts that had created the chasm between them. Maybe he grieved the ways things might have been had they made different decisions and choices. Maybe he grieved the loss of the possibility of a future reconciliation.

We can’t avoid the complicated feelings that accompany the complicated dynamics that result from complicated family relationships. We do ourselves and our loved ones a favor if we avoid pretending that a complicated situation is or should be simple. We are all better off if we see, accept, and deal with things as they really are.

The mistakes that David and Absalom made teach us to try to do better than they did at establishing, nurturing, and maintaining relationships that are open, honest, reciprocally beneficial, and mutually edifying. David’s grief over the end of his deeply troubled and deeply flawed relationship with Absalom teaches us that regrets over the pain we and our loved ones cause each other can live beyond the death of one party in the relationship. The entire story of David and Absalom—as well as our own experience—teaches us that we need God’s grace to help us through our best and worst efforts to be who we should be and to do what we should do as we relate to each other.


  • David made it clear that he wanted Absalom to be taken alive. Why do you think Joab killed him anyway?
  • We need to remember that the battle between the armies of David and those of Absalom culminated a civil war between forces loyal to the two leaders. What kinds of situations can produce such conflict between citizens of the same nation? What role should Christians play in the midst of such tensions?
  • Can you think of other reasons that David might have reacted to Absalom’s death as he did?
  • What factors can complicate our grief over the death of a family member?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.


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