Occasionally, a friend of mine reminds me of a quote from the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life. As the senior angel spells out the George Baily assignment that could win Clarence his wings, Clarence asks, “Is he sick?” To which the angel wisely answers, “No, worse. He’s discouraged.”
Satan wields discouragement like a mighty sword that can stab us in the heart without much warning. Relationships frustrate us to tears. Circumstances overwhelm our days. Finances crumble into dust. Our health suffers. We feel like a frenzied hamster on a wheel going nowhere. Discouragement often pushes us to make poor decisions. We either give up and run, or we fight angrily. Neither provide the cure we need.
Everyone I’ve talked to lately has confessed to having “that day” during this time of quarantine. You know. That day when you say, “I’ve had enough of this! I’m tired of this game!”
So, how do you deal with your discouragement? Maybe we could all take a few lessons from the not-yet-king David.
By the time we get to 1 Samuel 27-30, God had already chosen David to be the next king of Israel. He had slayed lions and bears, killed Goliath, been anointed by Samuel, played the harp for King Saul, been befriended by Saul’s son Jonathan, become a mighty warrior, made Saul extremely jealous, been chased relentlessly by him, and extended grace to that same ornery king multiple times.
Yet, the day finally came when David moaned, “I’ve had enough! I’m tired of this game!” Actually, he said to himself, “One of these days I’ll be swept away by Saul. There is nothing better for me than to escape immediately to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me everywhere in Israel, and I’ll escape from him.” What we say to ourselves contains tremendous power!
So … David ran.
David’s weariness in trusting God moved him to make all the wrong moves. Knowing Saul would not chase him into Philistine territory, David sought and found the favor of the Philistine king Achish who gave him the town of Ziklag. David and his family, along with 600 of his men and their families, lived in Ziklag for 16 months. He and his small army spent their days raiding enemy territories of Israel, killing all the people, and plundering their possessions. However, David underhandedly convinced the king that all the plunder he collected had come from raids on his own Israelite people in southern Judah. David made sure his warriors killed all the inhabitants in every town they raided so his lie would not be exposed. Though he wasn’t discouraged enough to fight against his own people quite yet, he still fought for profit and honor rather than God’s glory.
Has discouragement ever caused you to stop trusting God’s strength and timing? Has it led you a few times to your own Ziklag?
David’s discouragement soon turned bitter, and bitterness unchecked eventually goes looking for a fight. So, David and his men joined the Philistines who were marching toward a battle with the very Israelites he would one day rule . By this time Achish had full confidence in David’s loyalty, but the other Philistine kings saw him as a spy and voted for him to march back to Ziklag immediately. David trudged back home even more bitter and discouraged.
It often takes a gut-wrenching and devastating event to grab our attention and inject some faithfulness and trust back into our exhausted hearts. When David and his men returned to Ziklag they discovered the town had been burned to the ground by the Amalekites who had taken captive all of their wives and children. The mighty warriors wept bitterly over their losses and talked of stoning David. His soul lay splattered on the rock-hard floor of a deep, slippery pit. He could fall no further.
That’s when it happened. “David strengthened himself in the Lord.” (1 Samuel 30:6, ESV)
The rest of chapter 30 unfurls four things David did to strengthen himself. As I read, I realized these were the same things I had done when my soul hit rock bottom. The Holy Spirit led me to this story to remind me of these things so I could resist becoming discouraged again. I’m pretty sure He thinks they will help you too.
So, how did David strengthen himself?
1) He remembered God’s love.
Not only had God demonstrated His love profoundly by delivering him from the lion, the bear, Goliath, and Saul, but He also proved His faithful love in an understated way. Rejection by the Philistine kings seemed devastating at the time. However, that rejection sent him back home quickly so his family could be rescued. If he had waited for the battle to be over things could have been much worse. This time rejection proved to be a good thing.
Has this pandemic caused some totally unexpected, yet surprisingly positive outcomes for you and your family? Has it given you time to develop richer connections with those who mean the most to you? Have you experienced God’s love in a more personal and real way? Thank God for His love, and live loved.
2) He remembered his promise and calling.
David knew he would be king! God said so. So, why did he ever believe Saul would succeed in killing him? Eventually, David stood tall against his enemies knowing that God was on his side.
You are a child of the king! Jesus said so. So, why would you ever believe Satan could succeed in defeating you? Stand tall, and thank God for keeping His promises!
3) He partnered with God to get the victory.
God told David that he would be victorious against the Amalekites, but David didn’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. He led his army straight toward the fight and fought all night and throughout the next day.
If you follow Jesus you have already won the war against Satan, but he still revels in battling God’s people. When we don’t engage in the holy battle for our own mind, will, and emotions we can become discouraged and taint our testimony. Let God encourage you by providing the help you need. Thank Him for His partnership.
4) He reversed his negative self-talk.
When David found strength in the Lord he stopped all of the “woe is me” self-talk. Instead, he went to the priest and asked the Lord what he should do.
You may have wise words for others. You may be able to be objective when counseling a friend. You might even discern things others miss. But when you become discouraged, you are your own worst counselor. Trust me on that one. Ask God to remind you who you are in Christ. He knows you better than you do. He will provide everything you need to get your joy back. Thank God for allowing you to see how fearfully and wonderfully made you really are.
“David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken; he also rescued his two wives. Nothing of theirs was missing from the youngest to the oldest, including the sons and daughters, and all the plunder the Amalekites had taken. David got everything back.”1 Samuel 30:18-19, CSB
You can too!