It happened so unexpectedly. When she turned to me during the group discussion, she completely changed the subject and instead offered me a long and heart-felt word of encouragement. Honestly, it caught me by surprise, and all I could do was nod with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t even speak, fearing I would start sobbing and never stop.
It’s been a hard season for my family. Several months ago, we sensed God calling us away from our hometown, our jobs, and our families. The transition has been difficult – and long. It looks like some kind of upside-down American dream, where you leave what’s safe, comfortable, and happy to do the opposite of all that. Many people were concerned, even angry, and didn’t hesitate to tell us.
What stands out to me now, though, about the past eight months, is not the discouragement we’ve heard; it’s the small, consistent words of encouragement that have come at just the right time.
That encouragement has looked like
- A casual acquaintance messaging me to say she’s been praying diligently for me for 4 months
- Friends who fast and pray during difficult days, bearing my burdens as their very own
- A co-worker pulling a small wooden cross out of his pocket as a gift and symbol of hope
- A friend who texts an encouraging word right before an interview
Proverbs 12:28 says that “Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs him down, but an encouraging word brings him joy.”
I can attest to the joy that comes from an encouraging word. They aren’t grand gestures or public proclamations. They don’t cost the speaker money or take much time to deliver. They are, however, a gift of great value. Solomon says again in Proverbs 25:11, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
As I’ve come to experience and understand the power of encouragement, I wonder if I’m using encouraging words to build up my own family and friends? Sometimes, instead of encouraging my husband and kids, I continually instruct and correct them. Often, with my friends, I will stop and pray for them or think encouraging thoughts, but I never actually let them know. I want to start using encouragement to continually build up the people in my life!
A sincere word of encouragement is like a salve for the soul. It’s effect is immediate and almost physical, replacing despair with hope. God has graciously provided people for me who are willing to minister with encouragement. We all have the power to do the same, to provide quick relief to our families, friends, and even strangers. Let’s listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and look for ways to encourage those around us!