Absalom: the Image of Power, the Reality of Fear

Posted on January 19, 2011 · Posted in Teenagers

Absalom was a troubled young man.  He certainly did not present himself as troubled, but he was. He projected power; he manipulated his father, the king. He was arrogant; when his father’s chief general failed to heed his request, Absalom set his field on fire. He was vengeful, taking the life of his brother in payment for the honor of his sister. He had a flare for the dramatic. He had 50 men who ran ahead of him to announce his going and coming. He publically challenged his father’s leadership by standing in pronouncing that life would be better for all if only he were in charge. Yet, he did not appear to be a rebel, but a champion—winning over the hearts of the people.

This was Absalom—powerful, handsome, arrogant, winsome and popular. This was the image that he projected and cultivated. Sadly, the image he displayed was not consistent with who he really was. Inside he was hurting. He could not make his own way legitimately. He relied on subversion and raw intimidation to achieve what he wanted. He had no balm for the pain of what was done to his full sister, Tamar. He had no comfort for the lack of relationship with his father, King David. He had no confidence in the loving-kindness of God; rather, he was convinced he had to make his own way in this world. So Absalom used the images of power, good looks, arrogance, and popularity to secure what he thought he wanted. But with all this, he was weak and lonely, without solace and joy.

Teenagers are often like Absalom. They present an image of arrogance and power. Yet inside they are hurting. Too often, parents react only to the image projected. They, like Absalom’s father David, fail to see that what is needed is relationship with God. So parents respond to children with hurt, intimidated and fearful—or angry—at the images their teenagers promote. An angry teen is at odds with the God of heaven, and therefore lives with a desperate need for contentment—but he doesn’t know why.

Think about your teenagers. Do they sometimes project these images of power and arrogance? Often, just beneath the surface of their angry, defiant demeanor is a sea of uncertainty and hurt. They perceive something in their lives to be unjust, and take aim at the first target available—usually parents. Do not misunderstand—I am not excusing this behavior—just attempting to understand it.

After the rape of his sister, Absalom raged in silence (2 Samuel 13:22). David was furious at Amnon, but he never addressed this issue with his son Absalom. Instead of lovingly pursuing Absalom, David did nothing to address the sin of the Crown Prince, Amnon. Perhaps David was also intimidated by the powerful silent rage of Absalom. We will never know. But you can know your teenager. If you are confronted with anger, arrogance and intimidation, reach out in the power of God. Seek God’s help in prayer—praying for your teenager’s repentance; love him or her sacrificially, showing Christ-like love and commitment. Often the image of power you see in your teen hides a deep hurt that only God can heal. Yes, your teen may be wrong, horribly wrong, and you must work to lead him along the right path.. But more than anything, he needs the love of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to help.

We will look more at this. Let me know your thoughts.

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.