Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God; you have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come. May this be instruction for the people, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant may know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God; for there is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. Who is like your people, like Israel? Is there another nation on earth whose God went to redeem it as a people, and to make a name for himself, doing great and awesome things for them, by driving out before his people nations and their gods? And you established your people Israel for yourself to be your people for ever; and you, O Lord, became their God. And now, O Lord God, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it for ever; do as you have promised. Thus your name will be magnified for ever in the saying, “The Lord of hosts is God over Israel”; and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, “I will build you a house”; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue for ever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed for ever.’
As human beings we often have the tendency to give negative dimensions of our experience most attention and significance. Psychologists call this tendency “negativity bias” and studies suggest we may be hardwired to respond in this way. Anecdotally, the annual appraisal at work is often used as an illustrative example; regardless of how many positive pieces of feedback the worker is given, the negative piece of feedback will dominate the worker’s memory of the review. Sound familiar?
David has just received the Biblical equivalent of an appraisal from God via the prophet Nathan. He’s received lots of good feedback and assurances of long-term security, but God has vetoed David’s project proposal to build God a temple. Completely absent in David’s response is any hint of “negativity bias”. Rather than focusing on what God has overruled, David is clearly conscious of all that God has done for him and chooses gratitude as his prevailing response.
Was David not subject to negativity bias like other human beings? I’m sure he was. But David, for all his faults was a person devoted to God and to right worship. He had a deep sense of God’s positive action in his life and in response David’s prayer is one of thanksgiving, praise and petition. Its tone is one of intimacy and closeness.
I know in own my life, there are times when I struggle to see what God is doing and offering thanksgiving is way down my prayer priorities. But next time I’m struggling to see God’s positive action, I’ll come back to David’s prayer and ask myself whether negativity bias could be clouding my vision of God’s good work.
Gracious God, You have blessed us with life You have given us the gift of your son, Jesus You have promised us a place in your Kingdom Forgive us for the times we have missed your hand at work For the times when negativity has clouded our view Help us, loving God, to see you at work in the world around us May our hearts respond with thanksgiving and praise In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Jonnie Hill, Ordinand at Northern College and member of Chorlton Central Church.