Today's passage: I Samuel 30
"And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God."
While David and his men had been out with Achish, there was trouble at home. The Amalekites took advantage of the fact that the Philistines were at war. They crept into Ziklag, a city that borders Philistine and Amalekite territory and looted it. They also carried away all the women and children residing there. Among those were David's two wives. As David and his mighty men return to this city that Achish has so graciously allowed them to live in, they see red flames on the horizon. The city is on fire. Something has happened. I'm sure they ran the rest of the distance to discover if any of their loved ones are alive. When they see that all of their loved ones have been taken, "Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep." Despair. Heartbreak. Hopelessness. If they were still living in caves, in the forests, this would never have happened. If they had never sought shelter from an enemy of their own nation, they may have been spared this. These are probably the thoughts uttered to David as they look at the devastation surrounding them. These men who had trusted David, who had been loyal to him, fought for him, defended him, were broken. The families for which they were fighting were gone. The Israeli nation which they loved had labeled them traitors. The new country they served hired them as mercenaries. What sense of belonging did they now have? Where was their home? Without their families, they didn't have one. They turn on David. They blame him for this. He is their leader. If they had stayed home, if they had not gone off to pretend to fight for the enemy, they would have been here to protect their families.
David also blames himself. David also questions the decisions that has brought him to this place. David feels the loneliness, the heartache, the loss. He feels the abandonment. He feels forlorn. He feels dejected and now rejected. Where can he turn? His friends are now like enemies. They are picking up rocks, ready to hurl their anger at him in the form of stones. David could have sat there midst the burning ash and let his men, his trusted friends, lob away. He could have wallowed in these feelings of despair, refusing to pick himself up again. He could have resigned himself that this was the end of God's plan for his life. But what does he do? "He encouraged himself in the LORD his God". How did he do it? Did he get out his Bible? Did he fall on his face and beg God to hear him? Did he start singing praises when all he wanted to do was sing dirges? I don't know how he encouraged himself, but the way it is worded seems to be active. God can give us encouragement anytime we want. And there are times we feel His presence. Other times, like here, we have to seek out the encouragement. We have to go to the Encourager and ask Him for it. Not because He doesn't always have it on hand for us, but sometimes we feel so far away that we can not feel His presence. Not because He is no longer there, but when we are in situations of such discouragement, we cannot tell if a hand of blessing or a hand of death is reaching out to us. There are times we have to lift ourselves out of the ashes and force ourselves to be encouraged. We have to thrash through the pages of our Bible to find any and every verse that will help us in our time of need. We have to sing with tears, with a broken voice, until our voice gets stronger with each refrain. We have to whisper God's name over and over until we can shout it out. God can encourage us. He will encourage us. Sometimes we have to make ourselves be encouraged. He is shouting down from Heaven but we can't hear Him through the flames and wailing. His Hand is reaching down to us, but we are too distracted by the stones in other's hands to notice. David had to encourage himself. He had to take action to find the encouragement. It was there all along, but David had to remove himself from the midst of the situation to be able to feel it.
What about me? Do I grab my gallon of ice cream and a spoon and expect that to change anything? Do I close and lock the bedroom door, mourning my situation, determined never to leave? Don't get me wrong. There are times for these things. Sometimes all I need to do is weep. Sometimes I need to get alone and drown my sorrows in my bedsheets. But when I feel I can weep no more, that is when I need to rise, and seek Him. I need to encourage myself in Him. I can't give up. I can't let it be the end. I need to find God, and let Him start the process of healing. Encourage yourself in the Lord. Don't always expect Him to come to you. Maybe He is trying but you can't see Him through the mess. Go to Him. Seek Him. Find Him. He will be there. And He will encourage you.