Strengthening Your Hand in God
David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 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. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.
–1 Sam. 23:15-18 ESV, emphasis added
I was with a dear brother at the hospital recently. He and his wife were going through a terrible thing, and our hearts were broken as we sat in the waiting room. Several folks from church were also there, and many came over the course of the next few days.
He looked at me at one point and said, “How do people do this without a church family?” He mentioned another family in the room next to theirs who had been alone the whole time. He said, “I don’t know how you bear it alone.”
I don’t know either.
A friend once told me, “Eric, all of us are always either on our way into a crisis, on our way out of one, or smack dab in the middle of one. We are never far from crisis.”
Maybe he is right, but many don’t live like it. Many convince themselves that crisis will stay away and are surprised when it doesn’t. Like David, crisis surprises us, then makes us weak, craving strength. But here’s what the church has taught me: if you wait until you are weak from crisis before you find someone who can strengthen you, there won’t be anyone around.
David, on the other hand, made a covenant before his crisis. He and Jonathan pledged themselves to each other in friendship in 1 Sam. 20, long before David found himself in the wilderness of Ziph (1 Sam. 23). Because of that covenant David looked up one day to find his friend heading toward him without being called. He didn’t just stop by while running an errand. He came 30 miles by foot through the desert outside Jerusalem. He searched the mountains and valleys until he found his friend, and then he “strengthened his hand in God” (1 Sam. 23:16).
It’s those last two words that really matter. Anyone can encourage someone else. It’s encouraging them in God that separates what Jonathan did from what others around David could do. In my experience, those two words also distinguish the potential of our worldly friendships from those in the body of Christ.
Admittedly, the phrase strengthening one’s hand in God a bit mysterious. Jonathan managed it (at least in part) by reminding David of God’s promises to him. One way to think about the strengthening power of the church may be this: God uses our promises to each other to remind us of God’s promises to us, or God uses our faithfulness to each other to remind us of God’s faithfulness to us.
I like that. So, a couple years ago when a friend reached out to me and said, “Do you want to make a covenant with me?” I said, “Yes.”
He has strengthened my hand in God.
I challenge other ministers, church leaders, and church members, to find someone in the body of Christ who can do the same for them.