Life is full of ups and downs. Both mountaintop and valley experiences.
During the good times, you probably find it easy to be positive, to stay encouraged, and to have faith and hope in your future. But what about when you’re facing a low point in your life…and that low point lasts for an extended period of time? How will you respond then?
Are you tempted to despair, to give up, or to throw in the proverbial towel because you can’t see a way through your troubles?
If so, take a page out of David’s playbook in the Old Testament. His response to one of the darkest times of his life offers us a model for how to respond when you’re faced with what appears to be an insurmountable challenge. David gives us a perfect example of how to encourage yourself in the Lord.
God’s Provision in Troubled Times
After the prophet Samuel anointed David as the future king of Israel, David’s life was anything but peaceful. Saul’s jealousy and hatred forced David to leave behind family, friends, and everything familiar to him. He fled for his life with Saul in hot pursuit.
Even though David had several opportunities to kill Saul, he refused to raise his hand against God’s anointed. Saul, on the other hand, had no such qualms and relentlessly pursued David throughout the land with the sole intention of ending his life and future reign.
Tiring of being hunted like an animal, David eventually sought refuge amongst one of Israel’s arch enemies, the Philistines. There he bargained with the king to settle peaceably in their land. King Achish gave him the territory of Ziklag in exchange for his military services.
The king believed that David was launching raids from Ziklag on his own people. Achish was completely unaware that for the entire time David had lived under his protection, he’d been attacking neighboring Gentiles. David had been savvy enough to leave no witnesses alive so that news of his true intentions never reached King Achish.
God’s Intervention in a No-Win Situation
Eventually, David found himself being called upon to fight against his own country Israel and King Saul on behalf of the Philistines. Ironically, this would be the battle that would end both King Saul’s and his son Jonathan’s lives.
However, before David even made it onto the battlefield, the Philistine commanders unanimously raised concerns to their King about David and his men accompanying them into battle. Though they weren’t directly aware of any evidence to suggest David would betray them in favor of Israel, these commanders rightly questioned David’s loyalty.
As a result, Achish commanded David and his men to return to Ziklag. The Philistine king and his army in turn went up to meet Saul and Israel in battle. Had David also gone to Jezreel, it’s likely that he would have turned against the Philistines just as they suspected.
However doing so would have put him in danger twice over – from Saul’s army as well as from the Philistine army. God intervened to remove David from this no-win situation completely.
1 Samuel 30:1-6 “Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
Returning to Utter Devastation at Ziklag
When David and his men returned to their Philistine camp, they found it completely destroyed by fire. Everyone in the camp, including all the men’s wives and children had been taken captive by the Amalekites. Everything they valued in the world had been taken from them.
These mighty warriors, David included, felt utter devastation at their collective losses. They were inconsolable, weeping bitterly until they had exhausted themselves in grief. Then, they contemplated taking their anguish out on their leader, David. In spite of the fact that David had suffered just as great a loss as they had, his men still held him responsible for their losses.
David, scripture tells us, encouraged himself in the Lord.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
The first thing to note here is how David and his men initially responded to their situation. The text plainly states that they experienced deep grief as well as anger. Additionally. David felt distress as a result of having his men turn against him.
A lesson you can draw from this is to acknowledge how you’re actually feeling about your current situation. Perhaps you’re feeling sad as a result of a loss you’ve experienced. Or discouraged and frustrated by no immediate improvements in your situation. Maybe you’re emotionally and physically exhausted and feeling hopeless about your future. Perhaps you have regrets about your past, or feel disappointment that you didn’t make different decisions earlier in your life. You might feel that your body is betraying you or have fear about what will happen next.
Whatever you are feeling, feel it. Fully. Acknowledge your feelings. Name them. Legitimize them. Experience them. God created our emotions and they serve a valid purpose of self-expression in our lives.
Don’t try to suppress your feelings, deny them, or bury them. That approach never works for long anyway, those suppressed emotions will only return in some counterproductive way in your life later down the road.
Remember that you are never alone in your brokenness. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”.
Jesus empathizes with you no matter what you’re experiencing (Hebrews 4:15), and when you place your hope in him, he will renew your strength (Isaiah 40:31). He also tells us to cast our burdens upon him, not to carry them ourselves (1 Peter 5:7).
Recall Your Past with God
David had a long history with God from his time protecting the family’s sheep as a shepherd boy to the many victories God had given him in battle against Israel’s enemies. But, he didn’t even have to look back into his ancient history to see that God had provided for his every need in the present time. God provided David protection in the midst of his mortal enemies. When faced with an untenable scenario to fight against his own country, God gave David an out, preventing him from spilling the blood of his own countrymen or being killed by those who had given him protection for betraying them.
To apply this in your own life, remember what God has done for you in your recent past. How has he provided for you or your loved one? How has he taken care of you? How has he saved you from trouble or prevented you from suffering loss? Answering questions like these can help you keep your faith and focus on the Almighty God rather than how you’re feeling about your current situation.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Seek the Lord, then Obey His Instructions
The first action David took after dealing with his grief was to seek the Lord for wisdom and guidance (1 Samuel 30:7-8). God gave him a clear indication of his immediate next steps, and then he followed through on what the Lord revealed to him. As a result, God gave David a sweeping victory and restored to him and his men everything that they had lost (v16-31).
There are several lessons to draw from David’s example. The first is to turn to God for direction. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”.
Approach your prayer and petition to God with an open heart and mind. Ask yourself, “What is God teaching me in this season?” and “What does he want me to learn from this experience?”
If you’re still drawing breath, then God still has a purpose and plan for you to fulfill. Find out what it is.
The next set of questions to ask yourself are:
- What is my immediate next step?
- What’s one thing I can do today to move myself forward?
In David’s case it was to go up and reclaim what had been taken from him. What is the next step for you?
Rally Your Troops and Trust God for the Victory
David went to battle to win back his life. But he didn’t do it alone. His men went to battle with him. However, many were too tired and didn’t go all the way to the war zone.
Which troops can you rally?
Who are the brothers and sisters in Christ who can go all the way into battle with you?
Reach out to them and ask them to battle in the spiritual realm on your behalf. Not everyone will be prepared or equipped to go to war with you. But, rest assured God will provide the support and reinforcements you need to do what he has called you to do.
Lastly, trust in the Lord for your victory. All you need to do is walk in obedience one day at a time. Stay in the present and don’t project too far out in the future (Matthew 6:34). Leave the rest to God. Trust that whatever the battle is that you’re facing, it is ultimately His to win. This battle is the Lord’s.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DALILA JONES STITZ
Founder and CEO, Health Insurrection LLC
Dalila is a native Houstonian and currently lives in Switzerand with her husband and two kids. She received her health coach training through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and Hallelujah Acres and teaches in-home bible studies and online courses.