“When you’re kind to others, you help yourself. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” ~ Proverbs 11:17, 25 (MSG)
What does discouragement feel like? What is the discouraged heart crying out for? What is desperately needed and missing?
In his book Encouragement For Life: Words Of Hope And Inspiration, Charles Swindoll gives insight into this great human need. He begins by writing, “Encourage me. Maybe you haven’t said those words out loud in recent days, but chances are you have shaped them in the silent hallways of your soul. Maybe you haven’t stopped anyone on the street and said that phrase. But if some one cared enough to look closely they would see the words written in your sad face, drooping shoulders, and pleading eyes. They would hear the words echo in your unguarded comments and unsuppressed sighs. Is that where you’ve been lately? Are you running shy on reinforcement and affirmation? Are you beginning to wonder not when relief is coming, but if it will ever come?”
He later writes a great description of what discouragement feels like. He writes, “Sometimes it feels like a dry, barren wind off a lonely desert. And something inside us begins to wilt. At other times it feels like a chilling mist. Seeping through our pores, it numbs the spirit and fogs the path before us.”
We all need to realize how valuable and imperative touches of encouragement can be in the life of one in pain. There is also a lesson here for those who may be in pain and struggling, that in the midst of pain there needs to be purposeful focus and concentration on the needs of others around us who may be hurting. As the result of suffering, there is a heightened sensitivity and more in tune perspective toward the needs caused by loneliness, sadness, despair and isolation. By being in this position they can have much better awareness and empathy to look around and make a concerted effort to reach into the life of another hurting soul. For many a sufferer this may be more difficult than for others, because of the varying isolating factors of their specific situation or special needs.
In finding some small way to make a difference in another’s life, in spite of your circumstances, you will in turn receive a blessing. Pain can make and shape us into more sensitive encouragers because we become more keenly aware of what we so desperately long for and need, and therefore can provide that relief to another. Webster’s dictionary defines relief as the removal or lightening of something oppressive, painful, or distressing.
Who knows better what touch is needed to bring about relief than those who hurt and suffer? They realize how even small gestures can make such a difference. It may be a phone call, a visit, a note, a hug or a compliment. You may or may not receive reciprocation but in reaching out you can minister to yourself as you minister to others. In so doing you can pray that, by meeting the needs of another, that the Lord may bring along someone who will do the same for you.
Who in your life today needs life changing and life altering encouragement?
“Softness of heart comes when we encourage one another in our suffering – spreading truth, imparting hope, bearing the burden, sharing the load, praying alongside, and offering a comfortable shoulder to cry on.” — Joni Eareckson Tada
Reflections on THE GIFT OF ENCOURAGEMENT
In the midst of really hard trials, it is so encouraging to think that God has a purpose…even when we do not know what that purpose may be. II Corinthians 1:3-5 offers us some eternal insight into one of God’s purposes whenever we are suffering. “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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”
According to those verses, God allows us to suffer trials so that we can encourage others with the comfort God gave us during our own hard time. The common bond of suffering offers an immediate connection and helps people make themselves vulnerable much sooner than they ordinarily would. They tend to reveal facets of their pain to someone who has experienced a similar difficulty that they might never reveal to close friends or even family members.
When we share the comfort of God with someone who is going through a similar trial to one that we have already experienced, that sharing gives meaning and purpose to our trial. Being able to help someone else attaches value to our own suffering and can help heal the wounds that remain from our trial.
Prayer for the hurting person:
Help this one who is in need of encouragement herself to see that in being used by You to encourage others, she can discover value and worth in her own suffering. Bring others into her path to encourage her and to walk this life journey with her. Lift her up into Your arms and hold and comfort her during this trying time.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Prayer for the helper:
Help me not to rush so much through life that I do not notice those who are hurting around me. Help me to be more involved with people and less involved in activities. Help me to be so in tune with Your Holy Spirit that I can hear You prompting me to stop, look and listen to those who need a loving touch from You through me today.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.