While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”1 Samuel 23:15-17
We all need friends like Jonathan. David was in trouble as Saul was hunting him down. Jonathan came to encourage David, and he did it in the best possible way. He helped David “find strength in God.” And the way Jonathan did this was to remind David of the promise God had spoken over David’s life.
Too often when friends are trying to comfort and encourage someone, they do it poorly. Here are some common mistakes that are made:
- Messiah complex: sometimes a friend tries to encourage someone by being the savior in the situation. They point people to themselves rather than to the Lord. They shell out their advice rather than help the person hear from the Lord.
- Minimizing: sometimes a friend tries to convince someone that it’s really not that bad. The intention here is good but too often it diminishes the real struggle that the person is having.
- Self-comparison: sometimes a friend tries to encourage another by comparing it to something they went through. Eventually the conversation turns away from the friend in need to the friend trying to help. It becomes all about a past situation that may have little to do with the current one.
But notice what Jonathan does. Jonathan doesn’t try to be the savior but instead points David to the One who can save. Jonathan doesn’t minimize the danger that David is in. Jonathan doesn’t tell a story of his own. Instead, he helps David find strength in the Lord. He helps David focus on the Lord rather than on his terrible situation. He reminds David of God’s promises to him. He reminds David of the prophetic words spoken over his life. He declares God’s words about the future even though those words seem impossible in the present.
Jonathan also didn’t try to compete with David. Jonathan was fine being in second place. He knew God’s plan for David and was not so arrogant as to fight against God’s plans. Jonathan humbly accepted the truth about what the future held for him. He wasn’t interested in competing with his friend; he just wanted to encourage him through this hard time.
We need friends like this. We need to become friends like this. Next time we encourage a friend going through a hard time, we need to think about how we can help them find strength in God (rather than in us). Let’s listen for the Holy Spirit and what He has to say about the person and their future. The word of the Lord is better than any advice we could give. Declare the truth about who God says they are, regardless of the situation they face. And if God has spoken a big destiny over their life, we shouldn’t be afraid to say it and we shouldn’t try to compete with it. We’re called to humbly encourage our friend. After all, this isn’t about us.