“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
(1 Samuel 30:6)
Encouragement. We all like to receive it in some way.
As a words-of-affirmation-girl, I feel the most encouraged [and loved] when people speak positive and affirming things over my life.
For others encouragement can come in the guise of a gift, a long and tight hug, a round of applause or a new year.
Irrespective of how you like your encouragement served up, it is undeniably true that we all welcome it in some shape or form.
This is because encouragement boosts our spirit and gives us hope, inspiration and courage. That is, in fact, the definition of the word ‘encourage’.
As we turn the corner into 2019, you may find yourself encouraged by the fresh slate that a new year invariably brings. From the outset, a new 12-months holds the promise of new beginnings and renewed determination.
However, what I am always reminded of as I scroll through my Facebook in the days leading up to a New Year, is that a year has the potential to hold both triumphs and trials; trophies and tribulations. To the point where many people are often hasty to bid farewell to one year and find encouragement in a new one.
But as January ends and February enters, and then the months continue to roll on…it is possible that we’ll find ourselves in situations and seasons where we could really use some encouragement. You may even find yourself there now.
But what can we do when we are having one of those hard days/months/years/seasons and the external encouragement from others is a little light-on? Or perhaps the challenge in front of you is so overwhelming that the words of others are falling short; no one really gets exactly what you’re feeling or going through.
If you can relate to this, you may be encouraged by something that I learned recently while reading the story of David in 1 Samuel 30 – God has created and equipped us with the ability and tool to encourage ourselves, in Him!
The short and succinct sentence in 1 Samuel 30:6 jumped off the page as soon as I read it – “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
What do you mean he encouraged himself?
Don’t we need others to do this for us?
Apparently not, according to David.
Intrigued, I dived in to David’s story and Psalms to find out what this means and looks like practically for you and me today…
SETTING THE SCENE
In 1 Samuel chapter 30 we see David in a pretty dire situation.
David was not yet King of Israel. Rather he was the captain of a band of weary, poor, down-and-out and disconnected men and their families (1 Samuel 22:2).
This band of misfits was actually a powerful military force, and at this point in the story, David and his men were marching in to battle with the Philistines, to fight against their kinsmen [the Israelites]. This was because David was loyal to a Philistine man named Achish, who had provided David and his men with a safe refuge from the Israelite King who hunted them (Saul), in a place called Ziklag.
However, as they were marching out to battle one day alongside Achish, the Philistine leaders decided they didn’t trust the allegiance of David and his men. They were fighting against their brothers after all.
Fair call if you ask me.
Nonetheless David felt utterly dejected as he and his men were forced to leave the battle camp and start the three-day journey back to Ziklag.
To make matters worse (yes, it gets worse), when David and his men finally arrived in Ziklag, rather than a home-cooked meal, a warm tent and a hug from their wives to welcome them, they found Ziklag burned to the ground and their wives and children taken captive by the Amalekites. Among those taken captive were David’s two wives.
And the blows kept on coming for David as his own men responded by pinning all the blame on him. 1 Samuel 30:6 says: “David was greatly distressed, for the people talked of stoning him. Because all the people were bitter in spirit, each over his sons and daughters.”
Imagine how he would have felt: rejected by the Philistines, weary from a three-day trek home, heartbroken by what had been stolen from him, under immense pressure to find a solution and fearful of what his men were planning to do to him.
Rejection, weariness, heartbroken, pressured, afraid.
An encouraging word from a trusted friend would have come in very handy for David right about now, I imagine.
But David was completely alone. There was no one to encourage him because his men were too busy finding the rocks to stone him.
And yet, look at what David does…
“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6).
Rather than run; rather than accept defeat because the situation was too hard (nay impossible); rather than try to pass the blame on to God or someone else; rather than collapse and quit; David encouraged himself!
YOU HAVE THE CHOICE TO ENCOURAGE YOURSELF!
At this point in the story my words-of-affirmation heart leapt a little as this tiny sentence revealed a huge truth and tactic that is still available to you and me today: we can encourage ourselves in our God!
Whether your situation is as desolate as David’s, or you’re just having a bad day, you can choose to encourage yourself.
“But how?” you ask?
Don’t worry, I asked that too.
I found that the answer sits in the back half of this powerful sentence: “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
David didn’t encourage himself using his own strength. The poor guy probably had no strength left! Rather he encouraged himself in the Lord.
This action of David’s is a demonstration of the trust and intimacy he had with God. This, in turn, reveals to us how we can encourage ourselves in God today.
The key is to trust in God.
David was able to encourage himself in the Lord because he trusted God as his source of protection, hope, strength, provision, direction, strategy and hope.
ALL YOU NEED IS FAITH, TRUST AND…PRAISE.
To figure out what this looked like in practice for David to encourage himself in God, I turned to the Psalms. David penned 73 of them after all.
One of these was Psalm 143.
Verses 3 and 4 explain what David was feeling as he wrote this Psalm, and I share this because I imagine it to be similar to how he would have felt in 1 Samuel 30:6 as his men were out looking for rocks.
In it he says, “For the enemy has persecuted my soul; he has crushed my life down to the ground; he has made me to dwell in darkness, as those who have been long dead. Therefore, my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.”
The Passion Translation puts verse 4 this way: “My inner being is in depression and my heart is heavy, dazed with despair.”
But look at what David says next in verses 5 to 9:
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I consider the work of Your hands. I stretch forth my hands unto You; my soul thirsts after You as a thirsty land…Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning; for in You I have my trust; cause me to know the way I should walk, for I lift up my soul unto You. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I flee unto You for my protection.”
This is what it looked like for David to encourage himself: praise.
David is praising God by:
- Seeking Him;
- Remembering all the good things God has done for him;
- Speaking of how much God loves him;
- Declaring his trust in God;
- Turning to God for his protection;
- Asking God for guidance and direction.
We don’t need to rely solely on others to encourage us and pick us up. Rather, God has given us a way to do it through him. And that way is praise!
THE PERSPECTIVE OF PRAISE
I’ll admit, for a long time I struggled with the notion of praise. I didn’t understand why it was so important. In fact [and I’m being super honest here], I thought it was a little egotistical of God to ask us to praise Him all the time. Why did he need us to remind him of how good he is?
But one day as I was driving in my car pondering this thought, God ever so gently said to me: “Praise isn’t for me; it is for you!”
Praise isn’t a tool for us to stroke God’s ego. Praise is the tactic that causes us to shift our focus off ourselves and turn it to God who is able and more than worthy of our praise!
Through the action of praise, we stop looking at our own finite ability and hand the reins over to God’s infinite ability.
I believe this is what David did when he encouraged himself in the Lord. We see it in Psalm 143 (and so many others) – He praised God. He shifted his focus to God. He remembered all the times God has been there for him. He recalled God’s great love for him. He remembered the way God protects him always; how God never fails him.
What encouraging truths!
That is how David was able to encourage himself and it is how you and I are able to encourage ourselves in God today – through praising Him!
Now please don’t get me wrong friend; I’m not saying that it’s easy or simple; I’m not saying that it’s necessarily our natural flesh response under trying conditions that pinch us, stretch us and drive us to the edge.
But what I am hoping to show you, through David’s example, is that praise works, and while you may not feel like doing it, it is worth it.
It is a powerful tool that elevates God in our lives and lays our problems, trials, worries, anxieties and heartache at His feet.
NEED SOME HELP GETTING STARTED?
If you’re unsure what praise looks like or what to say, I encourage you to open the book of Psalms in your bible. In there, the word ‘praise’ is found 189 times!
The Psalms turn sighing into singing and trouble into triumph through the power and perspective of PRAISE!
As the greatest contributor and author of the book of Psalms, David was well experienced in the action and tactic of praise. And that is how he was able to encourage himself in the Lord his God when everything was going against him.
HOW THIS PART OF DAVID’S STORY ENDED:
I’ve told you that praise works, right.
It fixes our focus on our big, infinitely-capable, miracle-working, tender-hearted protector-God.
But may I also encourage you with the outcome of praise and encouraging ourselves in this way, by looking at how this small part of David’s epic story ends.
We re-enter 1 Samuel 30 at verse 8 where: “David inquired at the Lord, saying, “Should I pursue after this raiding party? Will I overtake them?””
“And He answered him, “Pursue them, for you will surely overtake them and will surely recover all.””
After he encouraged himself in the Lord, David had the perspective and wisdom to ask God for instruction on how he should address the situation at hand.
And God answered him.
God always answers us when we ask and wait on Him for a response! Jesus reminds us of this in Luke 11:9-10 when he said, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.””
Now look at the final outcome for David. After he did what God said and pursued the men who had raided their camp and seized their families, verse 19 says:
“Now there was nothing missing, from the smallest thing to the greatest, neither sons, nor daughters, or plunder, or anything which they had taken, David brought back all of it.”
It’s a happy ending. The stuff any good Disney movie is made of.
But this isn’t Disney. It’s real life. And it’s as real for you and me today as it was for David then.
In those life-moments when it looks impossible, your tank is empty, your heart is broken, your purpose feels like it has dissolved, your back is up against the wall; remember David and how he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
And know, my friend, that God has given you everything you need to do this too.
No matter what 2019 serves up, you have supernatural encouragement on tap! So, tap into it!