Encourage them with great patience. —2 Timothy 4:2, NCV
Friend to Friend
Encouragement takes persistence. Persistence takes patience. Just because you have encouraged someone once does not mean that your role of encouragement in his or her life is over. They did not become discouraged overnight, and they will not often become re-encouraged overnight.
My husband Dan began making wooden furniture many years ago. My job was to stain and finish the pieces after he had completed them. I had never worked with wood or stain and did not know much about how to accomplish the task. But I knew who did.
I headed to our local hardware store. I explained to a salesclerk that I wanted to finish some furniture – today. I was in a hurry to place it in just the right spot in the house and wanted to get this staining business over with quickly. He smiled and patiently explained that it takes time to achieve the best finish. He obviously did not understand my timetable, so I tried to explain again. Ignoring my words, he said that a beautiful finish requires repeated layers of stain and lacquer with time to dry in between. “There are no short- cuts if you want the final product to be right,” he said.
Encouragement is like that. It takes layers of love and great patience to replenish, restore and put courage back into a heart. Patience is an important part of encouragement.
2 Timothy 4:2 also says that we are to encourage others with careful instruction, being sensitive to the condition of the learner, to the one who is in need of encouragement. Learning does not begin with the truth. Learning begins with the learner and requires loving flexibility.
When our daughter Danna first played softball, her coaches were her dad and Garland Robertson, our youth pastor. Our son Jered was an assistant coach.
At one of their practices, one girl was having trouble hitting the ball. Garland was pitching – and that may have been the problem. Dan was giving her instructions – and that may have been the problem. For whatever reason, she was not hitting the ball. Finally, Jered pulled her aside and worked with her for 30 minutes. He was gentle and gave suggestions with great sensitivity. All of a sudden, the girl who was missing every pitch hit five in a row.
Instruction that is wrapped with encouragement really works. No one cares how much you know until they know just how much you care. I have heard it said that advice and instruction are like snow. The softer they fall – the deeper they stick. Sensitive instruction is encouragement.
Encouragement stays close. It is encouraging to know that we are not alone, that someone else is close by, in the rocking boat with us. Remember that one of the definitions of encouragement is “to be beside.” A shared joy is a double joy, but a shared sorrow is half a sorrow. God has given us to each other so that we can share the load. A shared load is always a lighter load. Ecclesiastes 4:12 is a wonderful promise, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
I read about an ingenious teenager who grew tired of reading bedtime stories to his little sister. So he decided to record several of her favorite stories on tape. He gave her a tape player and plugged in the tape. “Now you can hear your stories anytime you want. Isn’t that great?” he said. She looked at the machine for a moment and then replied, “No. It hasn’t got a lap.”
We all need the closeness of relationship. We all need to know we are loved. We all need encouragement. Staying close to those who need you brings them encouragement.
Encouragement is a daily thing. “Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). An encourager is one who knows you as you are, understands where you’ve been, accepts who you’ve become, and still gently invites you to grow. How often do we need to practice encouragement? Daily. Continually. Constantly.
Encouragers look for opportunities to work. Acts 4:36 tells us about a man who came to Christ and his life was changed so dramatically that he sold his land and brought the money to give to God through the early church. That is very impressive. But the most impressive thing about this man called Joseph is that the Disciples changed his name. They called him Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.”
Are you an encourager? Would your friends suggest changing your name? Would your spouse or your children? What about your neighbors or that person in your life who is struggling to find a ray of light in their darkness?
When Danna was a little girl, she loved to color in one particular art book. It had several pages that were special, but one had a picture of a butterfly. When I looked at it, I couldn’t understand her excitement because it was a dull gray.
When I asked Danna why she liked it so much, she said, “Watch, Mommy.” She rubbed her little hands together until they were warm and then laid her hand on the butterfly. The warm touch of her hand caused the special inks in the picture to react and the dull gray was transformed into a stunning rainbow of color.
This cold and dark world is hungry for the touch of someone who cares, for a word of kindness, for an act of compassion. This world – your world – is reaching out to you for encouragement. Be an encourager.
Father, I come, asking You to teach me how to be an encouragement to those around me. Help me to see those who are hurting. Don’t let me miss the broken hearts that cross my path. Give me the wisdom and love to be “God with skin on” to the people in my world.
In Jesus’ name,
Now it’s Your Turn
Who is coming to your house for Christmas? I’m sure they will all leave with full stomachs, but what about their hearts? Will their hungry hearts be fed by your love and encouragement? Today, begin praying for ways to encourage each one – especially the ones who are hard to love.
More from the Girlfriends
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