May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 New International Version
The verses above have a lot packed into them. Included are the words ‘encouragement‘ and ‘encourage‘. Encouragement coming from God in connection with His love and grace towards us.
‘Encourage your hearts’ – what is encouraging us during these days? What are we feeding our hearts and minds on? Where does faith in Christ fit into our diet of what we are thinking about and reflecting on?
It can be good to keep informed of what is happening in the world. Yet if it is not a benefit for you to be reading endless details about Covid-19 impacts, can I suggest to stop doing so? Take a break.
If you are discouraged right now in some way, why not consider words such as these,
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God“Psalm 42:5, New International Version
Part of finding fresh hope is to face up to what is disturbing us. It can be a help to be real about it with God in prayer and find fresh grace and peace for what we are facing. Sometimes it can be a help to talk with others too of course.
Being real about the things that concern or discourage us, is part of the ‘art of encouragement‘. Encouragement is not about screwing up our eyes tightly and denying that challenges exist. Rather it is finding renewed hope and strength amidst whatever it is that is troubling us.
Of course, it isn’t just those who are in a tough time that can benefit from genuine encouragement, anyone can!
Some cultures more readily give praise than others. Whilst it is probably true that this may sometimes be flattery or social convention, personally I believe for us to give encouragement to others is part of the culture of God’s kingdom.
So who could you encourage in some way over the next week?
Do not underestimate the impact that it could have. There are lots of people who are anxious about both the present and the future. Your being in contact could be very timely in making the difference in someone else’s life.
Why not pray about this, see who comes to mind and go from there? Or simply be open to encourage others whom you interact with in the coming days.
Let’s be those who practice the ‘art of encouragement’. You’ll probably find you end up being encouraged along the way too – it seems to work like that!