Do you see people who are hurting but feel intimidated or unsure about how to reach out to them? More to the point, how can we as Christians offer meaningful encouragement to a hurting world? Before answering these questions, I invite you to think about the definition of encouragement:
Encouragement, according to the online Oxford Dictionary, is defined as:
- The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.
- Persuasion to do or to continue something (To not be a quitter!)
- The act of trying to stimulate the development of an activity, state, or belief
True encouragement, does not tell someone what we think they want to hear–encouragement is not about “warm fuzzies!”
Christian encouragement speaks truth in love, to build courage and strengthen the one in need with the hope and assurance of Christ Jesus.
There are times when I wonder if Christians are intimidated by our “politically correct” culture to the point where we are afraid to to love as we have been loved? Have we abdicated our biblical responsibility to love our neighbor by relying on “professionals” to deal with the messy lives of others? (I in no way mean to denigrate the need for mental health professionals. Sadly, the need for such services will continue to be great in this world until Christ returns.)
What I am suggesting is that as a Biblical Counselor, I take seriously the responsibility of helping each Client I serve look at themselves and their problems as God sees them with the help of the Scriptures and prayer. The thing is, every follower of Christ bears such a responsibility to whomever God puts on their path. I write this not to scare you (truly!) but to encourage you to use what WE have–the Scriptures and prayer–to offer meaningful encouragement to the hurting people around you. How? By looking to God for the wisdom and courage we lack.
A good place to gain the perspective we need to help others is Philippians 2:1-4. The Apostle Paul, encouraged his friends with these words:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (2:1-4)
As you reflect on Paul’s words, what stands out to you? I see encouragement, comfort and unity in Christ as what draws us together. Once we are drawn into Christ, tenderness, compassion and our joy in Him frees us to love others as a reflection of the grace He has extended to us.
In essence, Paul encourages us to keep Christ central in our motivation as we are freed to love others in humility and in faith.
The result? A formula for meaningful encouragement in a hurting world where we:
- Make prayer for and with those who are hurting a priority.* As you pray for their needs pray also:
- With thanks to God for their lives and for the fact that He is watching over them even now.
- Give thanks that no matter how dark things may seem, God’s intent for them is blessing–that their faith will deepen as they trust in Him.
- Give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice made on our behalf as a meaningful way of gaining the courage and perspective needed to face every challenge.
- Dig into the Scriptures prayerfully, asking God for a teachable heart. (Consider Journey Notes Praise Journaling if you don’t have something in place.) Think in terms of application as well as inspiration as you read, Then, as God ministers to your heart, pass on what you learn to those whom you desire to encourage.
- Better yet, encourage the person you want to encourage to also dig and pray. Then arrange a time to get together to share insights gained and pray together. When you get together be sure you both share at least three things you are thankful to God for. (There’s no doubt about it, we humanly gain strength when our focus is more on God’s gracious provision rather than on what we lack.)
The Bible is full of meaningful encouragement that offers the wisdom and perspective we need to help others navigate through the worst of times with the love and hope we have received from the gospel of Christ. .
All to His Glory!
*Many years ago a friend told me about meeting Corrie Ten Boom (author of The Hiding Place.) My friend told Corrie about her sister who was being held behind the (then) Iron Curtain. My friend related that they were in the middle of a room full of people when she felt herself suddenly pulled down on her knees as Corrie said, “We must take this to our Lord right away!” That story has been an encouragement to me for many years to make prayer a priority when I see someone who is hurting. I cannot get down on my knees but I have been known to put my arm around someone who is hurting to pray for them.
You just encouraged me with this 🙂 What a vivid and powerful picture of Corrie Ten Boom and the urgency to pray when the Holy Spirit prompts us to do so! I want to be like that! Thank you so much for this edifying post.
You are very welcome Heidi–in Jesus Name we press on!
Encouraging words, mom! 🙂
Good . . . now go forth and en-courage!
Thank you so much!!!!
Your are very welcome Missy!