Have you ever written a letter to someone you have never met? When I was a little girl we used to call them pen pals. Every year our teacher would bring in a list of children from another school, sometimes even from another country. We would get to choose a person from the list to begin writing to.
One year I chose a girl whose name has long faded from my memory. But I remember the anticipation of those letters. We wrote back and forth for several years, sharing girlish dreams of horses, boys, and the latest Tiger Beat dreamboat. We had never met but we were sure that our secrets were safe with each other.
Over time, the letters ceased to come as lives moved on and priorities changed. My pen pal moved away and I never heard from her again. But I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday the feeling I had when I reached into that mailbox to pull out one of those letters.
I felt encouraged.
Encouraged because someone cared enough to write to me. Encouraged because someone thought of me with no expectations. Encouraged because someone trusted me with their dreams, their secrets.
Today in my busy life it’s easy to make excuses about why I don’t have time to send out a note of encouragement. Schedules, deadlines, kids, church. You name it. But the truth is that my life is full of devices that make sending a note a simple task. Why there are even apps that will send them out on a prearranged schedule. Truthfully I have no excuse other than I just don’t make the time to do it.
Why? Because in the adult world you have to develop a relationship in order to share dreams and feelings. I would have to trust someone with my deepest desires, my hopes, my disappointments. And truth be told, then I would have to listen to their life issues as well. Don’t I have enough to do without carrying the weight of someone else’s issues?
But here is the deal. We are told in Scripture to encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Romans 15:4-5, Hebrews 10:25). In the Old Testament there are countless stories of God’s encouragement to His people. When He knew we needed the ultimate in encouragement He sent His Son to teach us how to encourage others. Christ spent much of his time encouraging His disciples as well as all those who followed Him. People traveled days just to sit at His feet to receive those precious words of hope.
When is the last time you encouraged someone?
When is the last time someone encouraged you?
I was convicted recently by a Scripture as I sat alone in my kitchen, safe from the messiness of the world. Romans 1:11-12: “For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours” (NIV).
I must admit that I prefer my own company. It is way easier to sit at home watching my favorite show in my pajamas than to go to a Bible study where people get all mushy and want to blurt out all their problems. Or to sleep in on Sunday morning instead of volunteering to help out at church where I have to make polite conversation and pretend like everything is hunky-dory. Or, even worse, become a mentor to someone seeking to know more about Jesus, because I would have to admit that I just don’t know as much as I should; and besides, my testimony is not all that interesting.
Yet that is not how I, as a Christian, am called to act. Hebrews 10:25 states it pretty bluntly. “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Encouraging. One. Another.
You can’t get any simpler than that.
So I ask you again. When is the last time you encouraged someone? Because you can’t encourage someone if you aren’t in community with other people. You can’t encourage someone if you don’t know what their hopes and dreams are. You can’t encourage someone if you don’t get into the messiness of life with those around you.
Then, wonder of wonders, if you begin encouraging those around you, those people you share life with, those people you are called to be in community with, they will begin encouraging you as well. Because they will know your hopes and dreams and disappointments.
As you meet regularly with other Christians, as you share your faith, as you soak in the commonality that is life at the foot of the cross, you can’t help but become encouraged as you hear their stories. As you see that others have battled the same storm that you are battling. As you lift someone up who is stumbling, you will be able to share the gift that is your faith.
He has given us an entire book of encouragement written just for us. All He asks us to do is read it and use it to give someone else the encouragement they need. So whom will you encourage today?