Good Intentions, Bad Consequences

When We Get Ahead of God

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

2 Samuel 6:1-3a, 6-7,12b-15

David was finally bringing the Ark of the Covenant (which represented the presence of God among his people) home. What an exciting day that must have been! It is recorded that David and about thirty thousand of his men went to Baalah to retrieve the Ark. David, however, made a grave error in his preparations. He had neglected to consult with his priests about the right way to transport it. I don’t know if David was in a rush to get it back or if he just failed to consider the tasks from all the right angles, but this error costed him the life of a good man. Uzzah, in a effort to be helpful, put out his hand to steady the Ark as it teetered when an oxen stumbled and he was struck dead for this irreverent act. David’s mistake costed Uzzah’s his life.

How many times do I make this same kind of mistake? How often do I charge in with a good heart and the right intentions but with inadequate information, resulting in unintended consequences? I open my mouth to encourage someone only to say exactly the wrong thing. Or, I offer unsolicited service in an effort to be supportive but instead increase the other person’s emotional isolation further.

As I reflect on this passage, I am reminded of an incident in the counseling office that happened years ago. A young lady came in looking for help due to her overwhelming circumstances. In addition to feeling burnt-out by her work with the public, she also was in a challenging relationship with a loved one. As I listened I could tell she was underplaying the severity of her loved one’s problems. Instead of listening and supporting, I confronted her too quickly and too aggressively about this issue. I may have been right, but I hadn’t taken the time to build rapport and trust with her, and as a result I didn’t know her well enough to comment on this part of her life. As I made my ill-timed comments, she erupted. She began to scream at me, calling me all sorts of harsh names. She then stood up, said she didn’t need this kind of help from me, and stormed out. I never saw her again.

Just like David, I had good intentions, but acted without enough information and made a terrible mistake. I charged in before knowing my client well enough which only worsened the situation. Now someone who needed help not only left the relationship without the requested aid, but may have also formed a negative opinion of counseling in general. After the terrible loss of a good man, David took the opportunity to stop, reflect on his action and its consequences, research the situation further, and try again. In my particular case, I wasn’t so lucky. I never saw that young lady again, but I have worked to avoid making the same error with every other person who has crossed my counseling door since then.

Prayer

Dear God,
Forgive me for acting with good intentions but with the wrong actions. Help me to slow down, get a better grasp of any given situation, and listen to you before I act. And when I do get ahead of you, please work to repair the messes I make.

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