A medicine for stress
From an article by Worktalk
At the Battle of Mount Gilboa, there is a soldier of great integrity named Jonathan. He is the son of Israel’s first king, Saul, he is brother to two other soldiers and is best friend to David, the man who would become king. During the course of the battle Jonathan and his two brothers are killed. Saul, badly wounded, takes his own life (an act considered illegal and shameful in Israel).
News of these deaths comes quickly back to Jonathan’s home. His nanny picks up Jonathan’s five-year old son to flee for their lives (families of defeated kings were routinely slaughtered). In her haste, she drops the boy who’s badly injured in both feet, rendering him permanently unable to walk. The boy’s name is Mephibosheth and on one day everything in his life has changed.
This little lad has lost his father, his two uncles, his grandfather, his security, his home and his health in one traumatic episode.
His name means, 'From the mouth of shame' and from five years old onwards his life will be a massive challenge.
We don’t meet him again in the history books until he is an adult with a son of his own, maybe fifteen years later. He is living as a lodger in someone else’s home in a place called Lo Debar which literally means 'land of nothing'.
When we hear him speak, he calls himself 'a dead dog', a terrible term to use, but that is perhaps how he has experienced his fifteen or so years.
They didn’t use the terminology in those days, but Mephibosheth would have had to deal with PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) as well as chronic stress.
These forms of stress are not the same as temporary workplace stress or even a normal difficult period. PTS can create an invasion of pain into the soul causing involuntary flashbacks to the trauma. It used to be called ‘shellshock’ after it was observed in soldiers returning from the First World War.
For the five-year-old Mephibosheth, he may have shown remarkable resilience, as children sometimes do, if it were not for the daily reminders of that trauma that he could see in his legs. Literally he could not walk.
While Mephibosheth was dealing with his chronic stress, David, his father’s best friend, had fought many battles and become King. In a lull in the fighting David remembers his dear friend Jonathan and asked his servants if there is any one left of Jonathan’s family.
Unearthing an old servant of Saul, they inform him of Mephibosheth. David has him brought to his court and there is a touching exchange between them.
It is in this episode that you can see medicine. Three times David reveals his heart and the balm. I will simply quote verbatim what David says.
David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1)
The king asked, “Is no one still left in the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” (2 Samuel 9:3) [Amplified: unfailing, unsought, unlimited, mercy and kindness of God]
“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.” (2 Samuel 9:7)
There you have it. A medicine for chronic stress is kindness. David restores Saul’s land to Mephibosheth, and he invites him to eat permanently at his table. David provides him with a large staff to farm the land and so gives him security for the rest of his life. David’s kindness consisted of generosity and hospitality. It was a double-sided act which poured all manner of healing into Mephibosheth’s soul. It did not heal his inability to walk nor did it erase the memories of his trauma. It did not bring back his father, grandfather and uncles but it did something powerful in his soul.
You might like to reflect on what that kindness means to you and others this week.
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