Useful Alone-time

I just started a new Bible study at my church about David. In my readings of 1st Samuel, I was struck by how God referred to David as “a man after His own heart.” At this point—1st Samuel, chapter 13— Samuel had not mentioned David.

All I knew from these early chapters was about Saul, how tall and majestic he looked, how the people selected him partly because he looked the part.

But later, God rejected Saul as king because he had disobeyed Him. Then God uttered a devastating statement. “Your kingdom will not endure.”

When the prophet Samuel went to Jesse with the intention of selecting and anointing one of his sons to be the next king, he rejected each of the older sons. The youngest son, David— whom Jesse didn’t even feel was qualified to stand up with his brothers— was brought before Samuel. God said, (I’m paraphrasing here) “This is the one. Anoint him, because I, God, do not look at the outward appearance, but at the heart of the man.”

In our culture, we spend a lot of time and money on our outward appearance, hoping that an improved body will make us acceptable, even admired, or promoted, or place us higher on the popularity list.

But, as the Word of God says, “God does not look on the outward appearance of the man.”

Teenaged David was relegated to the lowest position of sons among Jesse’s tribe. He spent his days watching sheep, guarding them from predators.

A lowly task, though essential. Kind of like washing dishes or cleaning toilets.

But while David watched those dumb, but important sheep, he was also learning the ways of sheep:

  1. sheep can’t handle turbulent water
  2. sheep wander
  3. sheep are pretty stupid
  4. sheep sometimes eat what they shouldn’t eat
  5. sheep are pretty defenseless
  6. sheep need a shepherd to strategize about movement, food, safety


And while David sat all by himself, doing this shepherding job, he had lots and lots and lots of time for thinking. Doubtlessly, he remembered his father’s teachings about God and meditated on them.

He made up songs about God and played them. Does that sound like what lots of contemporary teenagers do up in the solitude of their bedrooms?

And all that time, God was using that alone-time to do a preparation in David’s heart. David’s knowledge of shepherding sheep later helped him shepherd people.

(I know of another shepherd, about a thousand years later who got to know God during his days alone in the fields. This man, Patrick, was later led by God to evangelize the Irish people.)

My husband is a social guy. He loves to connect with other guys. Unfortunately, his busy travel schedule keeps him from being able to spend time with other men from our church or to do something with any consistency in the local community.


He comforts himself with the thought that this travel schedule will only last a few years. Besides praying for him every day, I tried to encourage him by saying, “You probably have no idea how God is using this alone time to prepare your heart for a future work.”

The same can be said for all of us when we place our lives in God’s hands and wait for Him to give us the “get-going” prompt.

Sometimes we have to wait a long, long time—at least in our opinion.

Hang in there! Think of David. Think of Saint Patrick. Oh, and think of Abraham and Sarah, waiting a hundred years for a son.

I’m sure you can think of your own examples.

Be a “man after God’s own heart.” Then ask God each day, “I’m here, ready for what you’ve got for me to do.”

Before you read this closing Bible verse, bear in mind that after Samuel anointed David, it was another 22 years before he was crowned king!

“So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” (1st Samuel 16:13 NIV Bible)


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