En-courage-ment - Hope for a Woman’s Heart
MY DAUGHTER KATIE received a special gift this morning that made her day. Her twelve-year-old daughter, Abby, sent her an encouraging email: “I love you soooo much, and I was thinking about how thankful I am for you. You are literally the best mom in THE ENTIRE WORLD and I hope you have a great day!”
Encouragement! The meaning of the word is exactly what it sounds like: to give courage. My husband, Bob, explains that the Greek word for encouragement used in the New Testament means to be called alongside to lift up another person. We encourage others when we walk beside them to provide courage, confidence, inspiration, aid, hope, support, and more. Genuine encouragement is a priceless gift to the recipient but inexpensive for the giver. Why, then, aren’t we more intentional about offering courage to the people around us?
Recently I found a journal my mother gave me for Christmas twenty years ago. I wept when I read her inscription on the first page: “This journal would be a good place to begin writing the book that is in your heart.” Although I love to write, at that point in my life I could not envision becoming an author. Mom, however, regularly inspired me with the possibility. I wish she had lived to see her dream for me come true.
We may not know until we’re in heaven the positive impact of our encouragement on those around us. Wives, we are the best equipped to express belief in our husbands. They need courage to lead, provide, and resist pressure to compromise in a high-pressure world. Our kids need courage to stand alone against the crowd, to pursue their dreams, and to use their unique gifts and abilities to positively impact their world. Friends, neighbors, coworkers, cashiers at the grocery store, nursery workers at church, and others we connect with all benefit from encouragement!
In our hard, abrasive world that beats us up and puts us down, criticism is common and encouragement is rare. But you and I can determine, by God’s grace, to be the exceptions, to be alert to opportunities to give courage—such as offering a smile or a kind word, or sending a thoughtful text, email, or note. We can express interest in those whom others pass by and show belief in those who doubt their abilities or who are on the verge of giving up on their dreams or giving in to temptation.
Paul instructed Timothy to encourage believers whose faith, like his, was tested by persecution (see 2 Timothy 3:12). My missionary daughter, Christy, has a ministry of encouragement to abused, trafficked, and persecuted women in the hard place she serves with her family. Recently she told us about coming alongside these women and initiating the process of healing from horrific pain. She taught them verses like Lamentations 2:19, “Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord,” and encouraged them to spend time alone pouring out their hearts to God. The women later shared how encouraged they were that God loved them enough to hear their cries and care about their hardships. Although most of us may not serve on a mission field where persecution is more obvious, we live in a world that is replete with challenges. We have the privilege to walk beside friends, pastors, relatives, and coworkers to provide the needed support and encouragement to keep on keeping on.
Christian leaders need encouragement to stand alone against opposition. The Lord instructed Moses to encourage Joshua, who would become leader of the Israelites after Moses’ death: “Charge Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him, for he shall go across as the head of this people” (Deuteronomy 3:28). Jonathan, the son of King Saul, who was pursuing the future King David, “went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). Think of specific ways to encourage the leaders in your community.
The apostle Paul understood that the early Christians needed courage for the challenges they faced. He wrote that one day Jesus will return, “like a thief in the night,” and told them to “encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 11). Paul not only commended the believers for being encouragers but also instructed them to continue to encourage one another as they anticipated Jesus’ return. His message still applies to Christians living today. While we wait for the return of Jesus, our biblical mandate is to encourage and build up one another.
This week, ask the Lord to enable you to encourage at least one person each day through spoken or written words. In the process of encouraging others, be encouraged that God is using you to infuse those in your sphere with the courage to live in light of eternity.