It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. There is no doubt that laughing, smiling or joking is good for a sense of well-being but there is a medicine which is far more potent, far reaching and effective. May I use a character from early biblical history to connect with the Stress Pandemic and introduce you to this medicine?
The back-story starts at the Battle of Mount Gilboa. A key soldier in the battle is a man 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.
Chronic stress can have all kinds of impacts in the sufferer and I will analyze that in the next edition. For now, I want to introduce the medicine mentioned at the top of this piece.
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 the 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?” (2Samuel 9:1)
The king asked, “Is no one still left in the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” (2Samuel 9:3)
“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.” (2Samuel 9:7)
There you have it. The best 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 not 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.
We will visit this in more detail, for now you might like to reflect on what that kindness means to you and others this week.
Work well today,
© Geoff Shattock October 2019
2 Samuel 4:4
4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)
2 Samuel 9:1-13
1David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied. 3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” 4 “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” 5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. 6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. 7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” 8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” 9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s[a] table like one of the king’s sons. 12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.
See also: 1 Samuel 31
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