Never Underestimate the Power of Encouragement

Your friend is in trouble. Big trouble. I’m not talking thrown-in-jail kind of trouble, although that certainly could be the case. I’m talking about life circumstance trouble. Maybe she’s struggling through cancer treatment, trying to stay strong in a fractured marriage, or battling depression. Or perhaps she’s unemployed, hopeless, or desperate. 

Even from a distance her situation seems too broken to fix. You don’t have a clue how to ease her pain. You’re powerless to change anything, and you fear that if you try to say or do something, you might trivialize her struggle. The last thing you want to do is add sorrow upon sorrow. Because you don’t know what to do, you don't do anything. 

Which is probably the worst thing any of us can do. 

The book of First Samuel describes the biblical equivalent of one of the scenarios above. Chapter 23 opens with David running from the maniacal King Saul. Although David has conducted himself toward Saul with loyalty, courage, and integrity, Saul has treated David as an enemy. Time after time Saul mustered his army and marched out to destroy David and his followers. Although David had multiple opportunities to kill Saul, he chose not to, recognizing that Saul was God’s anointed king over Israel as long as the Lord allowed.

But David was growing weary. 

Always on the run. Separated from his family. Responsible for the men who followed him. Struggling to feed everyone. Exhausted from battle. Discouraged from persecution. Doubting God’s call on his life and wondering what’s next, David described himself in Psalm 63 as being “in the wilderness.”

Then Jonathan. 

Jonathan, the son of Saul, but the best friend of David. A righteous, God-fearing man, Jonathan balanced the weight of his lineage with the weight of his integrity. Although he remained loyal to his father until they died together in battle, he remained a committed friend of David until death also parted them. 

During one of the darkest times of David’s life, Jonathan went to him. In the wilderness. Defying his father. Disregarding his inability to change anything about David’s circumstances. Bringing nothing with him but his faith and his friendship, Jonathan entered into David’s pain and eased his sorrow. 

“Then Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). 

This is what he did: 

“And he said to him, ‘Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that’” (v. 17). 

Jonathan reminded David of God’s promises. Years earlier Samuel had prophesied that David would one day be king over Israel. But it hadn’t happened yet. In the waiting years, when the path seemed to lead in the opposite direction, David may have found it easy to lose sight of God’s promises. This is why God sent Jonathan. 

When a friend is struggling, stooped under the weight of circumstances and isolated in the wilderness of trial, it’s easy for them to lose sight of God’s promises. We can remind them. 

When their dreams are dying, we can remind them that no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2). 

When they’re battling an illness and unsure of the outcome, we can remind them though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they need not fear, for God is with them (Psalm 23:4). 

When they’re struggling with a broken marriage, a prodigal child, or a hopeless situation, we can remind them that nothing is too hard for God (Luke 1:37). 

Then we can pledge our loyalty and friendship, vowing to walk beside them through their trial. 

“So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD” (v. 18). 

Jonathan’s visit didn’t change David’s circumstances. Scripture tells us, “David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house” (v. 18). But by entering into David’s pain, reminding him of God’s promises, and renewing their friendship, he “strengthened his hand in God.” 

What a gift to someone who is struggling. 

Now it’s your turn. Who in your life needs a friend like Jonathan? 

Be that friend today. 

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  1. Sometimes the best gift we can give a friend in trouble is to simply "listen". Let them talk, vent, cry or sit still. Yes, remind them of the love God has for them. Great message Lori. :-)

  2. My sister is going through a deep valley. I have a bad habit of wanting to fix things. I pray that God guides me and that He uses me to give her what she needs rather than what I think she needs.


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