Originally published Tuesday, 11 December 2012.
They marched home in hope of rest, and reuniting with their families. Beaten, bruised, battered emotionally and physically from the journey, David and his Mighty Men looked forward to the familiar, loving faces that awaited them in Ziklag, but they found something entirely different.
Left unguarded, unprotected and vulnerable to attack while David pursued matters of war, their families had been raided by the Amalekites, and the city of Ziklag burned to the ground. Their wives and children, including David's two wives, had been taken captive—perhaps to sell into slavery, perhaps to abuse in some other way—we aren't told, but stolen from them nonetheless. Gone.
And the same David who boldly challenged and defeated a giant, together with his band of rag-tag warriors, "lifted their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep." (1 Samuel 30:4).
Last Thanksgiving I prepared a day of wonderful education and hands-on experience for my boys. As a homeschooling family, we're always looking for ways to make the calendar come alive, and it had occurred to me that my boys, then six and four, had never really learned the story of Thanksgiving. I decided it was time for that to change.
I spent hours at my local bookstore picking out just the right books to communicate the message of Thanksgiving I wanted them to remember. I scoured the internet looking for an audio book of the story of Squanto the Indian because my oldest loves learning about Native Americans. I painstakingly cut a Thanksgiving Tree from brown craft paper, and decorated its branches with colored leaves made from outlines of my precious sons' hands, each one marked with something they were thankful for that day.
It was shaping up to be a wonderful success...except that it wasn't.
In reality, I spent most of Thanksgiving Day sobbing—and possibly slightly hysterical—because I couldn't believe my sons could still be so selfish, ungrateful, and yes, thankless, after all I'd done to serve them throughout the month.
I may have yelled. And screamed. And wept. And threatened. And shook with anger over their petty arguments that were making our "celebration" a smashing...well...failure.
More than just irrational, I was actually hurt by my children's reaction to the day. I felt beaten down by their attitudes, and at one point literally curled away from everyone in the passenger seat of our SUV in something reminicent of the fetal position. I had worked hard, and was battle-torn from the journey of motherhood. What I planned to find in my home for Thanksgiving was a family that loved, respected, and took care of each other well. I hoped to enjoy the Holidays after a season of intense loss and grief. What I found was something totally different.
I have to admit, it felt a little like coming home to a smoldering city. Like David and his Mighty Men, I wept until I had no more strength to weep.
It wasn't the first time my boys drove me to tears, and I'm sure it won't be the last. I bet you can relate?
Weariness, and maybe even a little bit of despair now and again, are a normal part of a mom's life. Children will disobey. Siblings will fight and terrorize each other every now and again. Holidays we meant to be so special will turn out more like nightmares. And the best laid plans of mice and men . . .
So how do we deal with the weariness if it's a normal thing?
I think we can take a cue from David and his Mighty Men.
In the face of major disaster, namely his men wanting to stone him for failing to keep their families safe, David could have despaired. I mean seriously, if ever there was a good time to despair, it was in finding out your wives had been abducted along with the wives and children of a bunch of tired, hungry, scruffy men! But David didn't do that. Instead, " . . . David strengthened himself in the Lord his God . . . [and] inquired of the Lord, 'Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?'" (1 Samuel 30:6b &8a)
Yes, David could have surrendered all he had worked for in that moment, everything he believed about the call of God on his life, and even turned his back on that same God who seemed to have failed him, failed to keep his family safe. But he didn't. He chose instead to turn to God in worship and prayer, begging God to show him what to do.
Just the other day, after yet another tough day at the McGlothlin Home for Boys, I found myself in my prayer chair doing much the same thing. My heart cried out something like, "Lord, shall I continue to pursue after this band of crazy heathen boys? Will I ever overtake them? Ever see victory in their lives?"
During that moment of heartfelt prayer, God led me to this story in 1 Samuel 30 and reminded me that He is the one truly in charge of their lives. My job is simply to pursue them, cry out to God in prayer on their behalf, and worship God.
Period. If there's any victory, it will be His, not mine.
"He answered [David], 'Pursue, for you shall surely overtake, and shall surely rescue.'" (1 Samuel 30:8b)
God was faithful to David, and even gave him the victory. But I believe the greater victory is what happened in David's heart as he poured it out in prayer and praise to his God.
His heart was strengthened, and he believed.
It works that way for me too. A humble heart, combined with prayer and worship always equals strength to keep going.
Try that equation on for size and see if God doesn't meet you every single time.
Brooke McGlothlin is the author of Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess, and Co-Founder of the MOB Society, an online community FOR moms of boys, BY moms of boys.