What encourages you?
What gives you that extra bit of energy to slog through the hard parts of projects, days, life, and races when you want to quit, when you’re exhausted, and you’re wondering if it’s all worth it?
What builds your endurance and makes you believe in yourself when want to abandon the thing?
I’ve asked friends and loved ones how I can encourage them when they’re in the midst of a trial, big project, stress, or just the againness of life. Interestingly, most don’t know. They just look lost and uncertain.
And it breaks my heart.
But it also leaves me on shaky ground because we’re repeatedly instructed to encourage each other. And I want to honor this! But far too often my hands are idle hands in my hesitation on how to proceed.
To be honest, I’m not sure I could tell you how to encourage me in times of trial either. I’m usually too overwhelmed, exhausted, beaten down, demoralized, stressed, and ragged to even think of something else. I feel lost and uncertain. I know there are needs, but there’s often so many I don’t know where to begin or have the ability to identify which is the most pressing.
However, in this sampling of verses, I’ve found some hints to help us.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
The writer of Hebrews tells us not to neglect meeting together
Community is crucial! It’s not only edifying for you, but it also involves you in a community where you do life with others. When you build those relationships, you become more aware of how people in your community are doing. And you learn how they are best encouraged. They either share verbally or nonverbally; but when you notice they’re struggling, on the verge of being overwhelmed, you have an opening to encourage. It could be:
Paul tells us in Ephesians to get rid of things such as anger, slander, bitterness, and harsh words. Why? These things cause division and facilitate posturing. They come from a selfish, self-serving heart. Beloved, you can’t encourage anyone if your focus is on you. Therefore, Paul tells us to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, and forgiving because these enhance community and building into each other.
Paul’s wrote this letter to the young Thessalonian church to strengthen their faith amidst persecution, to encourage their spiritual growth, and to clear up a misunderstanding about Christ’s return. Like a crowd cheering on runners at the worst part of the race, the above verse comes toward of the letter when encouragement is most needed. When a runner’s legs are rubbery, and their lung feel like they’re on fire, the crowd’s encouraging cheers can carry them across the finish line. Paul recognizes this need spiritually and reminds them and commends them at the same time for being diligent in encouraging each other.
Oh, Sweet One, we all need encouragement, and we all need to encourage. I’ve run in several races, and when other runners are cheering you on despite their aching feet, despite the sweat stinging their eye, despite their cramping muscles—it fills you with determination and shows you strength reserves you didn’t even know you had. Their encouragement has carried me across the finish line many times. One of my favorite things is when runners have completed their race, they circle back to the last mile before the end of the line to cheer on the rest of the runners.
Never underestimate your encouraging words. They can mean the difference between someone giving up or finishing strong and realizing their potential.