Thursday, March 19, 2009

Article - Encouragement


I have recently been studying the subject of encouragement. We are living in very discouraging times. The economic outlook is beak. There is a lack of confidence in our governmental system. It seems as if we are buffeted from every corner in our families, churches, neighborhoods and places of employment. One does not have to look very far to find disappointment and we quickly discover that discouragement abounds in the sin-cursed world.

David was a man that was acquainted with despair. He was the anointed king of Israel, and had to flee from the presence of Saul, the acting king. He had to leave behind friends and family because of the constant threat upon his life. He was a man without a country. During this time David also amassed an army of about six hundred men not including their families. These too were men that were distressed, in debt and discontented. They made David their captain and were involved in several military engagements during their time away from Israel.

In 1 Samuel 30 we find David and his army in Ziklag. While there the Amalekites invaded and kidnapped the families of David and his men. Obviously this was a significantly discouraging event. In verse 4 we find David and his men weeping. They were in the depths of despair and wept until they had no more power to weep. In addition to this tragic event, the men that loyally followed David into battle were now talking amongst themselves about the possibility of stoning their captain. They blamed him for this loss. Needless to say, there was overwhelming grief in the camp.

Can you imagine that degree of despair? Maybe you have been there. I have witnessed intense weeping because of the loss of a spouse or a child. The shock of the event and the numerous unanswered questions often drive people to weep as those in the above passage. Some despair because of past decisions. When a significant other leaves or a child goes astray, those that are left behind often play the “what if” game. If only I would have tried harder. What if I had given more time? What if I did not make that decision, etcetera? Other stresses such as financial difficulties, work related stresses and interpersonal conflicts can all lead to feelings of hopelessness.

How did David deal with this discouragement and stress? The Bible records that he encouraged himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6)! He turned to the One that was able to give strength in a time of great difficulty. It looked like all was lost from a worldly perspective, but when David turned to the Lord things quickly changed. He sought the Lord for direction and the Lord gave him an answer. The Lord also blessed David and his army with victory over those who had kidnapped their families. Their women and children were rescued and not one person or possession was lost.

In the midst of discouragement we should labor to encourage ourselves in the Lord. There are times when we all suffer the consequences of poor choices and sometimes disappointments come in spite of our best efforts. Either way, we can find strength in the Almighty. The word ‘encourage’ literally means to strengthen, prevail, harden, and be courageous. God is the ultimate provider of these things. I am reminded of what is commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. Jesus taught us to pray that, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” David was walking through that valley, yet he encouraged himself in the Lord. All of us will likely experience such trials in our lives. May the Lord strengthen us during these times!