Do You Need Encouragement?


Here’s Do You Need Encouragement?

I can get discouraged by many things. A friend who doesn’t show up for me, not seeing fruit from an important project, or physical pain that keeps hanging on can all affect my outlook for a few moments or a few months.

Discouragement is really a weariness of my soul. When it takes hold, I have little motivation to work on anything and often move to self-pity, wondering if things will ever change. I can then drift into questioning whether anyone truly cares. 

I wish I didn’t go there so easily, that I felt rock-solid confidence in my faith, my future, and my friends, but I need constant reminders of what I know to be true. Reading the Bible daily reassures me in my faith and ultimate future, and hearing from my friends reminds me that I’m not alone. While I may intellectually know that others are concerned about me, hearing from them or seeing them has made that knowledge feel more real. 

Scripture reinforces the fact that we need others, and that community is important. We can’t go through the Christian life alone. I agree with Philip Yancey who says, “Suffering should come with a warning label: do not practice this alone.” 

Jesus, God incarnate, wanted his dearest friends close in the garden of Gethsemane. Our Lord didn’t want to be alone in his suffering; he wanted friends with him. They didn’t need to say anything- he just wanted them to wait and pray. 

The presence and encouragement of others has a way of strengthening us, even when our circumstances are unchanged. We have renewed courage to move forward when we realize we aren’t alone. 

Encouragement is not offering platitudes like “cheer up” or “I know this will be fine” or “God will definitely give you what you are asking for.” None of us know how things will turn out. We encourage people to look to the Lord right where they are. 

Because we were created to live in community, the Lord uses friends to help us find strength and hope when we are discouraged. Jonathan helped David find strength in the Lord (1 Samuel 23:16). The prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the returned exiles as they rebuilt the temple (Ezra 5:2). Hur and Aaron held up Moses’ arms when he was exhausted (Exodus 17:12).

Barnabas, whose name means son of encouragement, had an immeasurable but largely unheralded impact on the early church. In Acts, he encouraged the apostles to accept Paul, who had once been a bitter enemy. After Paul was sent away for his protection, possibly for years, Barnabas sought him out when it was safe to return to ministry. Barnabas ensured Paul was not forgotten.  

Barnabas not only changed Paul’s life, but also the life of John Mark who had abandoned their mission in Pamphylia. Paul didn’t trust Mark anymore, but Barnabas insisted on giving him a second chance. Mark eventually wrote the first recorded gospel and Paul mentioned him in 2 Timothy, his last known writing, saying, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11).

Barnabas knew when people needed encouragement and then offered it. And that support impacted much of our Scripture because it shaped the authors’ lives. The Lord uses our Christian brothers and sisters to help us when we’re down. To be there for us when we feel like failures. To seek us out and believe in the Lord’s work in our lives. 

Paul exhorts and reminds us to encourage one another. The Greek word for “encourage” is parakleo, which literally means to call one alongside. In the New Testament, it is used in various contexts including to comfort and console, to strengthen, to help, to counsel, to advocate for and to teach. 

Those words describe what community looks like at its best. It is putting flesh on encouragement from the Lord. The Lord calls us to comfort one another with the comfort we have received from him (2 Corinthians 1:4), to encourage each other with God’s truth (2 Timothy 4:2), to build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to help the timid and weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and to exhort one another daily (Hebrews 3:13). 

We encourage each other to trust God and his faithful, unending love. As believers, we know that it is not the power of our words but the power of his Spirit that renews and restores us. 

The word for encourage has the same root as the word for the Holy Spirit, Parakletos. The Spirit is our comforter, consoler, strengthener, encourager, and teacher (John 14:15-31; John 16:5-15) and is always with us, teaching us about Christ, reminding us of Jesus’s words. The Spirit comforts us directly and inspires us to help others- we are often his hands and feet  on earth.

While our physical presence is wonderful and practical help can be invaluable, the value of community often rests simply in our words of encouragement. In community we are called to comfort people who are struggling, to empathize with their pain, to show them that they’re not alone, and to remind them of God’s love and presence.

Of course, not all of us have the luxury of having a close community. Even the apostle Paul near the end of his life was deserted by most of his friends and followers. He felt abandoned, even as he had poured out his life for others. He who had encouraged countless individuals and churches was suffering alone and longed for his friend Timothy to visit him in prison (2 Tim 4:6-21).

Paul was humble enough to tell Timothy his needs, asking him to come quickly and bring his coat before winter. Paul had been Timothy’s mentor and could have pretended he didn’t need anything but instead he chose to be vulnerable and open. 

If you are struggling and need encouragement, would you be brave enough to tell someone that you need them? I know it can feel awkward and I often shy away from expressing my needs, but friends are often eager to help when we are willing to ask. 

Encouraging others and being encouraged is a key part of the Christian life. What might God be calling you to do today in response?

If you are looking for community and encouragement in your suffering, I’m starting a private Facebook group to try to facilitate that. I’d love it if you’d join us! If you’re interested, click here.

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