A reflexive verb is where the subject of the verb is the same as the object – or, in other words, where the person (subject) doing the action (verb) is the same as the person receiving the action (object). In English, we usually add -self to show this: ‘I wash myself’ means I’m doing the washing and I’m also the one being washed (whereas ‘I wash the car’ means I’m doing the washing, but it’s the car which is being washed!)
When we’re younger, reflexive verbs are beyond us! We’re not capable of washing ourselves, dressing ourselves or feeding ourselves. We need help with the most basic things. We’re passive and have to submit to others doing things for us.
Spiritually, it can be the same thing. When we first enter the journey of faith, we may feel wholly dependent on other people to feed us, direct us and help us. But there will come a time in every Christian’s life when we need to learn to feed ourselves, pray and seek God for ourselves, not relying on other people to do these things for us – however godly they are.
In 1 Sam 29 and 30, we read of difficult times for David. on the run from Saul, whose jealousy has turned to murderous hatred, he has sought refuge from the enemy – and now even the Philistines don’t want him! Frustrated and disappointed, he returns home to Ziklag to find not refuge and sanctuary, a place to lick his wounds in peace, but loss and devastation. Now even his own men turn on him, talking of stoning him as they blame him for their misfortune.
At this point, there is no help to be found externally. It’s time for David to discover the value of reflexive verbs: he ‘encouraged himself in the Lord.’ (1 Sam 30:5) David found the strength he needed in God.
How? How did David move from being weary, discouraged, frustrated man who must have wondered when things were going to g his way to being the victor who would not only recapture all that hadbeen stolen from him but who would show compassion to the weary men who could go no further and mecy to a lost Egyptian?
He encouraged himself. Instead of dwelling on his feelings, lacerating himself with doubt and despair, he fixed his gaze on God. He remembered the promises of God, doubtless reminding himself that God had anointed him, so the story couldn[t’ end here. He meditated on God’s word; he focussed on God’s power and strength instead of bemoaning his situation and the attitude of those around him.
The result of this was a turnaround of circumstances for David. He consulted the priest. He sought God. He mobilised a raiding party. He acted decisively and authoritatively.
Once, on a previous occasion, David had needed the encouragement and reminders of Jonathan to set him on his feed agai. But sometimes God wants us to encourage ourselves. Sometimes there’s no one else there to lift us up. Sometimes it’s just us and God.
And at those times, as we learn to encourage oruselves in the Lord, God is there to lift us up, to send us on our way with a clap on the back and a dose of His endless energy which raised Christ from the dead and is surely enough to raise us too.