If you could travel back in time and observe one scene from the Bible, what would it be? I think my answer might well depend on when you ask me because there are numerous events I would love to witness firsthand. I want to see the wall of Jericho finally fall after the Israelites had mutely marched around the wall for days with everyone thinking they were looney. I want to see Jesus multiply a meager lunch to feed 5,000 people. I kind of want to see what Jonah looked like after he was hurled back onto dry land … of course, I would hold my nose when he passed by me. I imagine he didn’t smell that great after his experience.
Lately, though, my mind goes to a different Bible tableau–one that might seem odd for me to want to see. This is the culmination of that scene:
“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.” 1 Samuel 30:6
But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. I wish I knew exactly what that looked like. Scripture doesn’t reveal exactly what he did or said. Part of me wonders if God kept back that information because if He had laid out the seven steps that David used to encourage himself in the Lord, you know someone would be selling the step-by-step plan on the Internet for profit. Instead, scripture leaves it unspecified, and that means I have to actually have a relationship with God where I’m striving to know Him in order to know what that looks like in my own life.
So, let’s back up a moment and set the whole scene of what was going on in this passage. Story time with Aunt April! David and his men return to Ziklag to find that all of their wives, sons, and daughters had been taken captive by the Amalekites and the city had been burned. In response to this devastating discovery, David and all his men wept until they had no more strength to weep. Later in the passage, scripture mentions that David had 600 men with him, and every one of them had lost their entire families. It was at this point that verse 6 comes in. The people were in such utter despair that they talked about stoning David. Don’t merely read these words … feel the emotions! Because in the midst of all of this … David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
David experienced epic highs and lows in his emotions–that becomes very clear when you read the Psalms. But it strikes me that although he experienced deep feelings toward God or his circumstances, David also spoke truth to himself in the midst of these peaks and valleys.
One brief example is Psalm 142. David transitions from “No one cares for my soul” to “I cried out to You, O Lord; I said, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
I believe David used truth to encourage himself that day in Ziklag. He wept until he had no strength and then spoke to himself of who God is and what He had done in the past and how He had been unceasingly faithful.
When I find myself in discouragement, or despair, or depression … in addition to dealing with any sin that might be present in that moment, I have a toolbox of helpful things to renew my mind and encourage myself in the Lord. Today, I want to share one of those tools with you.
Read and meditate on Scripture that has nothing to do with you.
Find Scripture that talks about how great God is, scripture that magnifies Him above everything–above you, above your circumstances, above your Mondays–and read and meditate on it.
One of my favorite passages to read is Nehemiah 9. It’s full of God–His awesome power, His mercy, His longsuffering. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter … I hope it encourages you in the Lord!
5 Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever! O may Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise! 6 You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You. 7 You are the Lord God, Who chose Abram and brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before You, And made a covenant with him to give him the land of the Canaanite, of the Hittite and the Amorite, of the Perizzite, the Jebusite and the Girgashite—to give it to his descendants. And You have fulfilled Your promise, for You are righteous.
9 You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heard their cry by the Red Sea. 10 Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants and all the people of his land; for You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them, and made a name for Yourself as it is this day… 15 You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger, You brought forth water from a rock for them for their thirst, and You told them to enter in order to possess the land which You swore to give them.
16 But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; they became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments. 17 They refused to listen, and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; so they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; and You did not forsake them. 18 Even when they made for themselves a calf of molten metal and said, ‘This is your God Who brought you up from Egypt,’ and committed great blasphemies, 19 You, in Your great compassion, did not forsake them in the wilderness; the pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, to guide them on their way, nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go. 20 You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, and You gave them water for their thirst. 21 Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.
25 They captured fortified cities and a fertile land. They took possession of houses full of every good thing, hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, fruit trees in abundance. So they ate, were filled and grew fat, and reveled in Your great goodness. 26 But they became disobedient and rebelled against You, and cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who had admonished them so that they might return to You, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, but when they cried to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors. 28 But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You; therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them. When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven, and many times You rescued them according to Your compassion…
31 Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them, For You are a gracious and compassionate God.
32 Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness, do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You, which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria to this day. 33 However, You are just in all that has come upon us; for You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.