The Art and Value of Encouragement

Gentle words can be powerful (Click to Tweet)
An ancient proverb says, "A person's anxiety will weigh him down, but an encouraging word makes him joyful." (Proverbs 12:25 GW) Isn't this true?
I'm not saying severe, clinical depression can be cured with a few encouraging words, but encouragement has an amazing effect. Encouragement is like shining a light into a dark place.
Although I'm not prone to long bouts of depression, I've certainly had periods of sadness and discouragement. We all have to some extent, some of us more than others.
My wife is a great encourager. I've seen her encourage our children, friends, staff, and other family including me over the years. It seems to be natural for her. I've learned from her example and that of a couple of friends just how valuable encouragement can be. I've also found it is somewhat of an art. It's not just saying nice words to someone.
Encouragement needs to be genuine and personal (click to Tweet)
This past week I had the opportunity to encourage a fellow pastor discouraged about ministry. It is not uncommon for pastors and church leaders to go through periods of discouragement. I've been there plenty of times. In fact, that same day another chaplain spoke words of encouragement to me.
Funny how that works. And this may be the simple key to the art of encouragement, pass on encouragement to others as you've received it.
While encouraging my pastor friend, a flood of memories filled my mind of many times I felt like quitting the ministry. I didn't, but I thought about it. Here is where my wife and a couple other close friends helped me. Because they knew me and I trusted them, I could be encouraged by them.
There's an old joke of a man complaining to his wife one Sunday, "I don't want to go to church." His wife responded, "You need to go to church, you have to go." The man continued, "But the people don't like me and I don't like them! Give me one good reason why I have to go." His wife responded with, "You're a grown man and you're the pastor! And there are people who need to be encouraged and trust you will do that this morning."
A few variations of this joke exist, but the point is simple.
Encouraging others has value, and giving it to others has its own benefit (click to Tweet)
When my oldest son was quite young, soon after our third child was born, he came to his mom and me saying, "I don't feel loved." We are a very close-knit and affectionate family so this shocked us. After a couple of moments God gave me wisdom. I said, "Maybe if you show love to others you'll feel love." This seemed to satisfy him. He put it into practice and hasn't stopped doing it.
One of my favorite people in the Bible is a man named Barnabas. His name means "Son of Encouragement." (Acts 4:36, 37) I've always liked that. Several places in the Bible make it clear how he received this name, but I'll speak of that another day... maybe next week.
The world around us needs more people like Barnabas. We need to become like him whatever our role in life. This is true within the church as well. It's not just the job of the pastor to the church, but each of us.
Random question—Why do you go to church? If you don't go at all, or did before but don't anymore, why not? What do you expect from going to church? Or, if this is the case, why did you give up on the church?
Speaking of random, I've always liked the bumper sticker, "Practice random acts of kindness." Seems like a good habit to develop.
Here's a simple challenge for this week— practice intentional acts of encouragement (click to Tweet)
Look for opportunities to give encouragement to others, especially if you're in need of some encouragement yourself.
Let me know how it goes. And please feel free to share this post along with some encouragement to others.
The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl. (Proverbs 25:11 NCV)