When was the last time someone paid you a compliment? Think about that for a moment. Now, on the other hand, when was the last time someone criticized you or made some negative statement? I bet that’s much easier to remember. Is that because we simply remember criticism more (is it easier to recall negativity) or do we all receive more criticism than encouragement? To be fair I am not suggesting that all negative criticism is bad. We all need to be open to personal criticism; when handled with love, discipline and criticism can be extremely helpful to personal growth and correction. But do we receive enough encouragement? Because we all need encouragement.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another… (Heb 10:23–25)
If you’re anything like me you find criticism to run rampant within you without even trying. I find within myself a tendency to be self-critical and negative. While honest criticism presented in love is healthy within community it seems to have a long-lasting negative impact in our hearts if it is unchecked by encouragement. To be honest, I feel like I’m probably the least qualified person to talk about encouragement. But it’s important. We all need encouragement in our lives. Just last night I was feeling down (for no particular reason) and so I asked my wife for a nice long hug. What a difference a simple little thing will do to help encourage your soul.
I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. (Ephesians 6:22)
Let’s be clear about something else. I’m not suggesting we go out there and declare that everyone is a winner and be disingenuous with our encouragement. When someone pays you a false compliment I’m sure you’d much rather they have said absolutely nothing then to say something that is not honest or true. We live in a world that is filled with disingenuous people. We are surrounded by people who seek compliments and lie through their teeth to say whatever will make them more liked. We as Christians must be genuine, honest and sincere about everything we declare with our mouths. We as Christians must be extra sure to be sincere and honest with our encouragements.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Who is someone you could go out and encourage today? What random stranger could you give an unexpected, unknown encouragement to? You could pay someone a genuine compliment for how they look. You could notice some loving parenting and compliment a young couple at the restaurant. You could notice some kindness and compliment that person that kindness. Think of your friends and family whom you know well. Your encouragement to them today will mean a lot coming from you. You could give a random friend a hug and tell them you’re happy that the two of you are friends. You could call up a random friend and tell them you miss them and are praying for them.
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)
It is ultimately God who provides us with encouragement. If you’re feeling discouraged today, if you feel like you’re tank is running on empty, then go to the One who can truly fill you up. We often look to one another for encouragement, but God is the one who fills us up so that we can pass that encouragement on to others and point them to the God of encouragement.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had… (Romans 15:4–5)
If you’re feeling discouraged, take some time to pray and read the Scriptures. Go for a walk and talk to God and be filled with the encouragement that comes from your Heavenly Father. Take time to be with God. Take the time to be encouraged, then go take the time to encourage someone else with the encouragement you have received from God.