How can you be the kind of encourager they need? You do it the same way Jonathan did. He didn’t come to David with empty promises of ease and comfort just around the bend. He didn’t say things would get better. He didn’t know if they would or not. But he did know God’s word, God’s promise, God’s purpose. You do too. You don’t know how another’s life will turn out, but you do know what God’s word says. You encourage best by reminding others of what God has said.
The pressure was intense. Every decision weighed heavily. He went to the Lord in prayer, seeking answers multiple times. He wanted to be sure his next move was God’s will, not his own. Still, he felt uneasy, unsettled, unstable. The battles waged around him, and he seemed always caught in the middle. He was willing to help, willing to suffer, willing to endure hardship so that others might find life. But it was hard. Really, really hard.
How long could he keep this up? When would relief come? He knew God always worked out in the wilderness, but can’t he also work in the comfort of home just as well? Why this place, this season, this burden? Why him?
Maybe you know those feelings too. Maybe you wonder how you’re going to make it through. You wake up each day and force yourself to put your feet on the ground, trusting that somehow God will show up again and somehow you’ll make it through the day.
What do you need in those seasons? You need strengthening from a friend.
Jonathan and David
Perhaps that’s a surprising answer to such an intense need. But God designed us for friendships—deep ones that strengthen and sustain.
Take one biblical example. If ever there was a man under pressure, it was David in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. King Saul was chasing him, seeking his life. David did Saul no wrong. He was just the king after God’s own heart. Everyone loved him. But Saul hated him because God chose him and because people loved him. Saul’s envy grew unabated.
So David ran. He ran out of Jerusalem, leaving behind his home, his wife, his job—everything. He ran into the wilderness, making caves his shelter. Still, men found him and joined themselves to him (1 Sam. 22:2). Even on the run, David was a leader and commander. He couldn’t run from his calling to save and protect God’s people. He wasn’t trying to, of course, but it might have been nice not to have four hundred men to lead in the wilderness while on the run for his life.
The scene is 1 Samuel 23:1-14. An Israelite city is in trouble and asks David for help against the Philistines. He asks the Lord if he should go up and save them. The answer is yes. So he does. And what is the thanks he gets? Betrayal. The men of the city tell Saul David is there. He can’t catch a break.
It’s in the middle of this story when a friend shows up. Jonathan, the King’s son, previously made a covenant with David (1 Sam. 18:3; 20:16). He hitched his future to David’s, promising to be with him and for him. He was his friend who loved him as his own soul (1 Sam. 18:3). Now, that friend came to David to strengthen his hand in God (1 Sam. 23:16). Oh, how David needed that.
A Strengthening Hand
How did Jonathan strengthen David’s hand in God? 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. Saul my father also knows this” (1 Sam. 23:17).
Jonathan was a reminder. David knew who he was. He knew the promises of God. He looked at his situation and considered it part of the deal. He was God’s chosen king for God’s chosen people, and he would serve them at great cost to himself all his days. But that doesn’t mean it was easy, and it doesn’t mean doubt didn’t enter David’s mind from time to time. How could it not?
Jonathan was the friend everyone needs. He was the kind that sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). Coming to David couldn’t have been easy. Jonathan was, after all, Saul’s son. His friendship with David already got him in trouble (1 Sam. 20:30). Saul was looking for him even now, but Jonathan was the one who found him. And instead of bringing death, he brought life. Instead of beating him down, he lifted him up. Instead of greater hardship, he made his burden lighter.
Jonathan had nothing new to bring David. He had no gifts of comfort. He had only a threefold reminder of God’s promises. David need not fear, God would protect and deliver him, and even his enemies knew David’s eventual destiny as King of Israel.
Yes, David’s life wasn’t what he thought it would be by now, but the day was coming. Hold fast to God’s word.
That’s a strengthening hand.