But David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.
1 Samuel 30.6 (KJV)
In the Face of Disaster
Ancient Israel’s history is strung with uneasy alliances. Its foreign policy, so to speak, is governed by expediency. So it is here. Israel finds itself in the uncomfortable position of aligning with its longtime foes, the Philistines, to end a rampage by the mutually despised Amalekites. David and his men have joined ranks with the Philistines, but their service has been rejected. The Philistines, having never forgot David’s triumphant defeat of Goliath, don’t trust him. They tell Israel’s commander to send him back to his post, the city of Ziklag.
David and his troops arrive three days later to find the Amalekites have routed Ziklag in their absence. The city is burned to ashes and its people taken captive. 1 Samuel 30.4 tells us when David and his men see their homes destroyed and their wives and children are missing they weep until they have “no strength left to weep.” His men hold him accountable for the tragedy, as he led them to join the Philistines and leave their families unprotected. Talk of stoning David begins to surface. Staring in the face of disaster, mourning his personal losses and fearing his own death, David has no rational solution to his crisis. No doubt his first impulse is to give up and let the chips fall where they may. “But,” verse six says, “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”
The Only Thing to Do
When we meet situations where nothing can be done, the only thing to do is encourage ourselves in the Lord. Problems too great or grave for us to understand and handle are perfectly sized for His management. Clearly, the Ziklag disaster was David’s fault. He’d not thoroughly considered all the possible consequences of his decision to join the Philistines. In truth, he may have been driven out of vanity—a self-serving impulse to build his reputation as a warrior, perhaps. But we should draw wisdom from his response. Guilt and self-blame offer no beneficial options in circumstances like these. If anything, they steal focus and energy from the only One Who can turn things around on our behalf.
We encourage ourselves in the Lord. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3.20 that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Encouragement comes when we’re reminded of this. His power is at work within us. Our situations may be so overwhelming—they may look so unalterable—that we may not have the slightest idea what to ask God for or how to imagine they can be fixed. But His ability to go beyond our limited understanding and imagination is what we depend on. We encourage ourselves in Him.
Courage to Act
When we encourage ourselves in the Lord, He provides us with courage to act. Self-pity, condemnation, regret, and other negative responses to problems are paralyzing influences. They mislead us to accept our condition, cripple ourselves with guilt, and admit defeat. They change nothing. Had David yielded to his grief and shame, he and his men would have never reclaimed what their enemies stole. Instead, David’s decision to focus his attention on God restored his confidence. What looked illogical and impossible at first sight now seemed viable and possible. “Shall I go after these raiders?” David asked, an audacious idea if ever there was one. “Do it,” God answers. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.” (v8)
The Amalekites hadn’t gone far, it turned out. They stopped to throw a victory party. When David and his men found them, they were drunk, disorganized, and unprepared for battle. Although outnumbered, David’s troops recovered everything they’d lost. Nothing was missing. Quite often, that’s the case when we face disasters of our own doing. Once we regain the courage to pursue what we’ve lost, recovery is fairly straightforward. Yes, we may have to fight for it, but we can win. It’s learning to encourage ourselves in the Lord that’s hard.
When we encourage ourselves in the Lord, we find the courage to act.
(Tomorrow: Through the Roof)