Are You Encouraging?

If there is anything I have been learning lately, it is just how important being encouraging is. So much of the Christian life lies in encouraging one another.

So as we start to think about how to live and apply the call to encourage one another, the first logical question is: who are you encouraging? If you are not encouraging somebody, you are missing something. A great part of fatherhood for me right now is in bringing encouragement my daughters. Anna and Maggie who are both struggling with depression need a lot of encouragement right now. Rachel, who often finds herself caught in the middle of her sister’s problems, needs a lot of encouragement. A great part of my role as a husband has been to encourage Mandi as we walk with our girls through all of this. We had two college girls from Missouri stay with us this summer who were here for a summer job, they needed a lot of encouragement. My brother David has been staying with us, he’s been going through a real hard time and he needs a lot of encouragement. My friend Michelle who is in the hospital and struggling with severe PTSD and OCD needs tons of encouragement and so has her family. Everybody needs some, and some need a lot. There is never enough to go around.

Another thing I have been learning is that the reality is where love abounds, encouragement abounds. Love and encouragement are inexorably linked together. You can increase love by increasing encouragement, and you can increase encouragement by increasing your love for one another. Conversely, discouragement diminishes love, and when there is a lack of love, encouragement is scarce.

I have learned this first hand. Encouragement has not always been easy to give, and I have been far from perfect at delivering it too. I’m sure that my wife will back that statement up! I’ve been learning that when Mandi or I are short on encouragement for any length of time love starts to feel as rare as a California rain. The bickering starts, then the fighting, then all-out warfare!

One of the most effective ways to minimize negative thoughts and hurtful talk is to increase encouragement. Remember, encouragement is contagious. The more you do it and see people encouraged, the more encouraged you become, and the more encouraging others become; and the more encouraging you become the more loving you become, the more like Christ you become, the more thankful and full of joy you become, which all wells up into praise to God.

The question then becomes: are we willing to give it? The encouragement God wants us, that He needs us to give one another is personal, that means it needs to be intentional. That means it is going to cost time, it is going to take a four-letter word that we like to avoid—work!

Even a little encouragement can go a long way. Just putting your arm around someone and telling them you’re with them, that you are praying for them, that you are willing to help them through their trouble can make all the difference in the world. I know it has for me. And more than once simply an email or a card with an encouraging word that I have sent has made a big difference to the people I sent them to.

For some people, encouragement seems to come naturally, it flows from their personality. For others, it is much harder for the same reason. People who see the glass as half empty instead of half full, people who have an easier time seeing what is going wrong instead of what is going right are going to have to work harder at being encouraging. If that is you, I want to encourage you by saying that we need people who think the way you think. There is nothing inherently bad or sinful about being able to find what is broken, what needs fixed, or what is lacking. For instance you can’t be a good doctor or a good mechanic if you are not good at seeing what is wrong. But don’t use your gift as an excuse to not excel at encouraging one another. It isn’t.

For others encouraging people is hard because they really need encouragement themselves: people who lost their job, or whose marriage is in trouble, or who have lost a loved one, or are struggling with physical illness, or depression, or are suffering through hard times. It is very hard to be encouraging when you are discouraged. When you are in those places you’re not looking to give some, you’re looking to get some.

If that is you, let me encourage you by saying you are right. It is hard. But remember, giving encouragement brings encouragement. It may be hard to take those first few steps, but the more you do it the easier it will become and you will find yourself getting encouraged in the process. But I would also say that it is okay to ask for encouragement, and certainly don’t hide the fact that you need it.


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