In his capacity as the leader of Outreach of Hope, a ministry geared to instill hope in cancer patients, amputees and their families, former major-league baseball star Dave Dravecky urges his readers to offer encouragement that validates a person’s worth before God.
Dravecky notes that “It’s easy for us to confuse our true worth with our sense of worth. While the Bible teaches that our true worth never varies, since it’s based on God and not on us, our sense or feeling of worth can vary tremendously.” Our feelings don’t always align with truth.
This is an area of my life that I want to change. I need to get better at seeing the good truth about myself, and building from there, rather than concentrating on the bad and getting discouraged. I want to be better at being an encourager, helping others see the thruth about themselves. I'm always humbled when I read or hear good things about myself from someone else, but more than that, I'm inspired to continue striving to be the person they describe.
I looked up the word encouragement in my dictionary -- partly because I have a serious love affair with my dictionary (Seriously. It's part of my quirkiness, just ask The Bushman!), and partly because I wondered how the concept was described. My favourite descriptions are "to give courage, hope, or confidence; to embolden, to foster." I want to be an EMBOLDEN-ER, a FOSTER-ER. (Haha, Webster would be rolling in his grave if he saw me using the powers of the dictionary for such evils as creating my own nonsense words like this! Nah, I bet after Dr. Seuss rocked the literary world, something like this is pretty tame!!)
The church we used to attend has, in the pew racks alongside the offering envelopes, little encouragement cards. For a while before we moved away, I made it a goal to fill one of those out every Sunday and pass along some words of encouragement. I've gotten out of the habit now that I don't have the written word to hide behind. I'm not an outgoing person -- despite being outspoken! -- and actually find that saying encouraging, heartening, emboldening (?!) words to someone in person feels awkward and uncomfortable. It's simply not something I'm used to doing.
It's funny/sad the people I'm used to complimenting -- mostly total strangers, like the gas station attendents or you bloggy buddies, but I need to expand that circle to include friends, relatives, and neighbours whom I can actually see with my own eyes and whom I know more intimately. Encouragement is to a person what wind is to a sail – it moves people forward.
In the later years of his life, C.S. Lewis had a remarkable correspondence with an anonymous woman from America. In his letters, Lewis urged the woman to deal with life in an emotionally honest way, acknowledging grief, fear and anger openly. He also warns her about the danger of allowing anger and fear to drive her away from God. In all the letters, there are three themes that continually surface: honestly dealing with our emotional state, responding graciously to trials and trying people and being diligent in our prayer life.
While the letters may be interesting, what is most striking is that Lewis bothered to write them at all. He confessed to being often overwhelmed by his workload, and by this time in his life he could hardly write because of rheumatic pain in his arm. Yet the reason Lewis continued the correspondence was because he believed that taking time out to advise or encourage another Christian was both a humbling of one’s talents before the Lord and also as much the work of the Holy Spirit as producing a book. Isn't that a beautiful way to look at it? Being a source of encouragement to a fellow Christian was just as meaningful to him as anything else he did.
His is an example to all of us about the enormous value of spiritual encouragement, of being present with each other, of giving generously to those who may have little or nothing to give in return. We are not called to walk the road of life alone. Somewhere, there's someone -- probably many someones -- who need some fresh wind in their sails.