To be an Encourager…

Staring into space was lovely this morning.  The air was cool, the sky blue, the sun brilliant and I was bushed from raking and digging and hauling compost and wrestling with roots and rubbish.  It was a relief to stop, lean on the shovel and stare.  But tonight it is tiresome. I sit before a blank screen staring….scanning the ‘skies’ for gathering clouds of thought, hoping to settle soon on something constructive to write here. Something encouraging.  Life can be so lonely and so… well, un-encouraging, even when it’s not downright DIScouraging.  I’ve been asking myself (and Jim!)  lately, what would it take to become an encourager…

I check my email, consult a writing blog for ideas, write a couple emails, send a text message, make a note about an upcoming event…still no fitting words with which to begin. The screen is blank.  Hmm… I haven’t yet checked Facebook…

How often I have wished for a life coach who knows me better than I know myself and will help me overcome my personal hurdles—including this immobilizing self-doubt. I don’t need someone who will merely cheer me on irrespective of the direction I’m headed.  That almost anyone can do. (And if there’s a cliff ahead, I’d rather be warned!)  No, I need someone who will steer me where I need to go, who will redirect my focus when it’s misplaced or just too compulsively narrow!  Someone who knows me better than I know myself and who has my best interests at heart…Now that’s the Life Coach I need…. but how is that a useful post?  Starting with a discussion of personal deficits is no way to offer encouragement.

Meanwhile, I have checked Facebook.  I’ve seen my daughter’s pictures, read about the down-side of church-supported orphanages, looked at the news in Alaska and Arizona, “liked” more things than I can remember… and still not come to terms with what to write here…

What would it take to become an encourager? I’ve been pondering these things. One thing is obvious, it will require looking beyond myself and my perceived needs–lifting my head from navel-gazing and noticing that others may perhaps need encouragement at least as much as I.  Likely none of us is immune to the need for encouragement, or Scripture wouldn’t make such a point of calling us to it: But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Heb.3:13  We get so easily ‘stuck’ in our own mire  with little perceived strength to lift another.  Perhaps that’s why we’re cautioned to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:4) !  It will rescue us from impotent self-absorption.

Also, to truly encourage we have to have something to offer, lest in extending a hand or opening our mouths we merely add insult to injury or fuel the fears that were already gaining ground.  I did that earlier this week. In my eagerness to warn, I shared my own story of mishap but failed to include the grace part—the way God came to my rescue.  In choosing to focus on the really scary part, the part about me! I left off the most important part of the story.  Encouragement will ultimately always point to Somebody bigger than ourselves as the Hero who will save the day. It will be by His strength that we are enabled to lend a hand or speak a word, not our own self-seeking impulses.

Another trait of an encourager is long-range vision.  I have to see the potential in you before I’m going to be able to coach you to reach for it. I have to believe firmly in God’s design and calling for you if I’m to spur you on to the love and good deeds He’s custom-made for you to walk in.  Seeing ahead and believing what could be is not my strong suit.  (Remember I don’t even play cards! haha) I have need of such hope in the yet unseen.  I marvel at what a good coach can accomplish, or rather what a coach can goad his team to do, all because he believes they can do it.  It’s amazing.

But as my beloved coach pointed out to me this morning, the greatest need of a real encourager is love.  Not the casual mushy gushy “I love you all” tossed out to an unknown audience, but a love that is committed to your success and willing to sacrifice himself to help you achieve it.  Love is not threatened by or envious of another’s success but rejoices selflessly.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things—pretty ideal qualities for an encourager!  But what would it take to become such a person?

Ironically, the answer is in the word itself.  To ‘encourage’ is variously translated in Scripture: to beseech, comfort, exhort, being the primary terms used.  But the underlying root means ‘to call to one’s side’ (in order to) console, encourage, strengthen.  And it is the very same term used to describe the Holy Spirit, our ‘Comforter’.  He is the One sent to come along side us to encourage, strengthen and be with us forever (Jn.14:16). He is the One who will remind us of what Jesus has said and teach us all we need to learn (Jn.14:26), the One who lives to make intercession for us (Rom.8:26), the One through whom God’s love is poured into our hearts (Rom.5:5).  This Encourager is the One who reminds us that we are God’s own children and can cry out to Him as our ‘Daddy’ (Rom.8:15)…  Surely this is enough for any of us to become an encourager. And by faith I say Amen, so be it!

And I’m counting on you who read here to keep pointing me to the One who is my sufficiency, and yours, for all things.  I need that reminder, often!  Thanks for coming along on my journey to grace.

–LS

P1120550And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (II Cor.9:8)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb.10:23-25

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. II Cor.1:3,4

And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Gal.2:20-21

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Some definitions:

Encourage:  to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence

Discouraging: depriving of confidence or hope or enthusiasm and hence often deterring action

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