A Word for Weary Warriors

Even warriors grow weary. Exhausted healthcare workers, fighting to not only serve but also truly see their patients, long to be seen. Single mommas working to keep food on the table begin to run on steam. Pastors who speak consistent truth to their congregations need someone to speak the truth to them. Deployed military personnel who leave home to keep our home fronts safe wonder if anyone even notices.

If ever there was a warrior, King David was he. He was a renaissance man long before the renaissance: A shepherd who single-handedly protected his flock from a lion and a bear; an unexpected youth warrior unafraid of a literal giant; a poet who penned songs of longing and love; a furtive fugitive who stayed alive against all odds; a wise king who led a previously marginalized people through their golden era.

In 2 Samuel 23, we hear the last words of King David as he looks back over his storied life. From the vantage point of the end, he looks back and sees a God who has made and kept covenant with him.

“For does not my house stand so with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure?” (2 Samuel 23:5).

However, immediately after his last words, the writer of the book sees fit to include a lengthy section of Scripture dedicated to his mighty men. David had a mighty God, and such a God also provided him with many mighty men.

Initially the list reads as one would expect a list of mighty men to read: A warrior who “wielded the spear against eight hundred men” (verse 8), another warrior who “defied the Philistines” until his hand cramped from so tightly holding his sword (verse 10), and other such feats of strength and bravery. However, the list shifts to those whose bravery showed itself in feats of friendship and lasting encouragement.

At a low point in his roller coaster life, David found himself hiding in the Cave of Adullam with a band of strong and ruthless enemies surrounding the valley. Loneliness and fear were wearing down event this mighty warrior. After all, even those who break through impenetrable cities have penetrable hearts pierced with longings and doubts. Is life worth the pain and weariness? Would there ever be rest? Did anyone even miss him or notice his absence? Was all of this effort amounting to anything? Even worse, had God forgotten him?

Into this literal and emotional dark cave of hiding, thirty friends came bringing life and light and hope. They found their leader weary, weak, and uncharacteristically whiny.

And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” (2 Samuel 23:15).

Photo by Anderson Rian on Unsplash

Moved by his vulnerability, three men were moved to action. They risked their lives to sneak into Bethlehem, which was then the garrison of the enemies (verses 14 and 16).

When they returned, David’s heart was strengthened, though he refused to drink the water. Realizing the costliness of their sacrifice and the depth of their friendship and devotion to him, David could not drink the water. Rather, he poured it out to the Lord saying, “Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went to risk their lives?” (2 Samuel 23:17).

It turns out our hearts need companionship and love more than even our bodies need water. The reminder of those who saw him and loved him did more to strengthen him than the cup of water ever could.

Weary warrior, I don’t know what your heart longs and whines for in your weariness. But I do know this: there is a friend who not only risked his life, but willingly let his blood pour out on the ground for you. He not only broke into the enemy stronghold, but was held captive by death itself for days. He comes to you in your dark caves and moments of weightiest weariness to be with you.

May these realities strengthen and embolden your heart today, friend.

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