In this little book, BREAKING THE KING SAUL SYNDROME, author Jonathan Martin contrasts King Saul’s fearful, jealous reign (I Samuel 8-31) to the faith-based generosity of his son, Jonathan. Jonathan willingly assisted his own replacement, David (I Samuel 20). Are we, like Jonathan, listening to the Lord and placing obedience above our own interests? Few of us are royals, but most of us are in charge of our own financial affairs. Have we lovingly considered the transitions inherent in our aging process and how to best navigate them for the benefit of all?

In contrast to Jonathan, we are all acquainted with the stereotypical older person who is seriously declining but refuses help. This person has not humbled himself under God’s mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6) but made self-reliance a bunker of pride. Unwilling to admit escalating needs, he or she becomes secretive and isolates as they decline. Such folks become quite sure that all potential helpers are after their money and/or power and deny everyone access. Instead of planning for the end of this life and preparing for decline, the stage is set for family conflict and crisis. Doesn’t King Saul encapsulate this stereotype?

There is another stereotype well known by Adult Protective Services–the adult son or daughter who undermines and disrespects their aging parents. Not realizing their own eventual vulnerability, they do not honor the parent that is encountering new limitations and/or concerns. They fail to take the time to build trust, or inquire as to the new and growing needs of their elders. Instead, their visits are hurried, disinterested, and peppered with nosy questions and unwanted advice. Neither Jonathan nor David played this role, but they were so perceived by a paranoid king. Sadly, most elder abuse is perpetrated by the elder’s children. I wonder how much of this grief and desperation could be alleviated if the generations humbly worked together to prepare for and minimize the problems inherent in the aging process?

The questions that Jonathan Martin pulls from this well-known story in I and II Samuel have to do with the transition of leadership in a kingdom. How might we be imitating King Saul in our ordinary lives?

  • Are we denying our eventual death and decline by neglecting our exit strategies? Persecuting anyone who brings up the subject?
  • Are we failing to give our Medical Advocate or Executor the tools for success? Do they know our medical needs? Our doctors? Our passwords? Our financial exit strategies?
  • Is pride and/or fear what keeps us from being vulnerable in family meetings or holding them at all?
  • Are we setting up the next generation for failure by not allowing plans to be made, knowledge shared, or skills learned?

How might we follow God’s lead and give away our “kingdom” as did King Jonathan?

  • Seek God in listening prayer, perhaps fasting, to know His will in these important matters.
  • Give up pride, selfish ambition, and any sense of entitlement. Ask forgiveness if need be. How might we improve relationships?
  • Look ahead and try to anticipate our needs as well as the needs of our families. Are there ways we can bless them now?

How might we wait for God’s timing as did King David

  • David made good use of the time he was in exile—he trained others in godliness and war while God was training him. By the end of this difficult season, David had written many Psalms and raised up a band of mighty men from misfits. How might we be investing our time?
  • David continuously honored King Saul, God’s anointed, even when Saul persecuted and falsely accused him. What an extreme example of how we are to honor our parents, and those in leadership no matter how difficult or unreasonable they may become.
  • David believed God would bring about his kingship, so he was able to resist the recurring temptation to make it happen by killing Saul.

This book, BREAKING THE KING SAUL SYNDROME,  helped me realize afresh the deep, emotional challenges inherent in one generation prayerfully releasing the control of their estates and eventually their own lives to the next generation. It is a vulnerable and loving act requiring much wisdom. I see this process as an opportunity for older adults and their adult children:

  • To use the Heritage of Hope Video Series as an educational, motivating tool conducive to helpful family interaction.
  • To transfer control in ways that edify adult children and empower them. Those who are childless (or whose children are unavailable or not gifted in financial management) may legally appoint professional guardians and conservators. https://www.guardianship.org/about-us/who-we-are/
  • To honor and bless one another as God instructs in stark contrast to our American culture.

I pray Heritage of Hope empowers and prompts you to seek the Father and professional advice applicable to your situation. May the generations work together so there will be thoughtful anticipation, prayer, discussion and growth . . . a learning curve as opposed to shock, surprise, dismay, disappointment, jealousy, and resentment. May none of us replicate King Saul. I ask instead that God be honored as we pass or receive the baton of faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.