“. . . But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” (Judges 16:20)
This has got to be one of the saddest verses in the Bible.
You see, Samson was special. His birth was announced by an angel, he was set apart for God from the very beginning, and he was given great strength to “begin the deliverance of Israel.” (Judges 13:5) God had hand-picked him for great things. A leader and deliverer for the people. And yet, Samson blew it big time. He lived in such a self-gratifying way that he didn’t even notice when the Lord had left him.
So sad! And so convicting. Because it is so easy to get distracted by life, by its pains and pleasures. It’s so easy to think that we are somehow overly special to God – indispensable - and He couldn’t possibly do without us and our unique gifts. It is so easy to begin chasing after things that this life dangles before us that we don’t even realize when our hearts and our focus are being drawn away from God. How many of us live a life that honors us instead of one that honors God? How many of us pursue “happiness” in the form of a bigger house, better car, more technology, a more exciting relationship, or more prestigious job because we think that will make our lives better?
Not that “bigger and better” is always wrong. But if we have not learned to find God and to glorify Him even in the “smaller and less satisfying” – if we have not learned the secret of contentment - we will always be chasing after “bigger and better.” We will fail to find Him and to delight in His blessings in the “here and now” if we are always running after “then and there,” always seeking the next temporary pleasure. And as life’s pleasures become a bigger priority, God becomes smaller. And we may not even realize that He has “left” us until it’s too late.
Yet, the funny thing is that we can convince ourselves that all of these “bigger and better” things are blessings from God, that He must be pleased with us to give us such a wonderful life. And we don’t even realize that these “bigger and better” things are actually crowding God out, not glorifying Him. Like Samson, we are too busy enjoying life to care, to notice, or to feel God’s absence. We are too busy enjoying the gifts to pay any attention to the Gift Giver.
Being special, hand-picked, blessed with unique gifts, and set apart for the Lord didn’t guarantee Samson’s success. He squandered these gifts because his heart was not committed to the Lord. If only Samson had lived his life focused on God instead of focused on life, then he would have noticed the growing distance between the Lord and himself. If spiritual maturity was his goal instead of physical pleasure, he would have felt the ache that comes with drifting away from God and he would have sought to make it right. And maybe the angel would have had more to predict than that Samson would just “begin.” Maybe Samson would have had a God-ordained “finish,” too. Maybe he could have fulfilled God’s plans in a better way than by tragically ending his life along with the Philistines. If only!