1 Samuel 16:14
“But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him.“
1 Samuel 16:16
“Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.”
The word distressing that describes Saul’s condition could also be translated as bad, evil, sad, or even as being in a state of misery. The writer wants us to understand that King Saul was being plagued by his emotions. The chapters leading up to this reveal that the cause of Saul’s condition was his disobedience to the Lord. Pride, self will, and fear of man, have been the driving forces behind Saul’s actions, and he is now reaping the consequences of a life lived contrary to the ways of God. In an attempt to be helpful, his friends gave him some very bad advice. They suggested that whenever he started to feel bad, he should distract himself with music. This remedy might have helped Saul feel better, but it in no way cured what actually ailed him. What Saul really needed to do was change his behavior, not his radio station.
Saul is not alone in being plagued by guilt, fear, discouragement, or depression, caused by bad behavior. Sadly, we often receive the same counsel Saul received; we are encouraged to change just about everything, except the behaviors that are actually causing the problem. Often, the only cure from being plagued by a distressing spirit is repentance.
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
It was the kindness and mercy of God that allowed Saul to suffer with a distressing spirit. It was designed as a wakeup call to turn the king back to following the Lord. Instead of allowing his condition to lead to repentance, Saul sought distractions. Sadly, this resulted in his never coming out of the condition in which we find him. As the story continues to unfold in the life of the king, things will grow increasing worse.
Not all bad emotions are caused by bad behavior, but the ones that are, can only be cured by turning to the Lord and away from the actions that are displeasing to Him.