Encouragement: Producing Hope
Are you an encourager? Or a discourager?
Recently at our weekly Lifegroup meeting (a small community group from our church fellowship) we took a “self-examination” on encouragement. There were fifteen “I” statements on the exam page. We were to rate ourselves on a scale of 1 to 5 – 1, being “hardly ever” up to 5, being “nearly always”.*
The self-exam had two columns in which to rate our encouragement to “family” and “others”. With my husband sitting next to me, this was a bit challenging. In case he was peeking at my self-scores, I didn’t want to overrate myself. Self-exams are hard to do with a potential onlooker at your side.
Some of the “I” statements were tough to rate, like . . . “I have a healthy balance of affirming others for who they are and for what they do.” Sometimes I find myself defining who people are by what they do, their words and actions – but “who” and “do” don’t always match up.
For instance, there are people who have been so beaten down by negative life experiences that who they really are becomes lost in depression, anger, fear, resentment, or hopelessness. If their circumstances were to take a turn for the good, without interruption by more bad circumstances, a whole “new” personality might seem to emerge. But sometimes that “new” person has been there all the time – just needing some encouragement to surface.
Anyway, at the end of our self-evaluations, we discussed our responses to the exercise.
Several of us felt we were more encouraging to “others” than to close family members. We seem to expect more from family members. Or family members may not feel as obliged to put their best foot forward at home, but expect their family to excuse their moodiness, grumpiness or rudeness. We don’t want to encourage bad behavior by being too nice, or so we reasoned.
Also, most of us tend either to put up with those negative moments from our family members, knowing (or hoping) those moments will pass, or we react in-kind – negativity for negativity. We often don’t think of giving encouragement to deflect unconstructive or pessimistic talk or actions. So, we either reflect the negativity back to the offending person or ignore the person altogether.
From my experience with depressive talk, actions, or thinking from others, I have found that much of it comes out of a hopelessness that anything will ever get better.
There is always a cause for depression – a mental, emotional, spiritual, or physical trigger. Often it only takes an injection of hope into the situation to bring about positive change; the opening of a doorway out, or even a window to let light into the space where those who need encouragement live.
I have found several keys to help move people from discouragement to hope:
- be an attentive listener and ask questions to show interest
- pray with the person whom you are trying to encourage
- share Scriptures which assure her/him that God knows about and can do something about their needs
- offer to assist in setting goals and establishing first steps towards accomplishing those goals that will bring change
- don’t give up on people who need extra time and compassion – God didn’t give up on you
There are many Scriptures that deal with “encouragement”. Here are a few to ponder as you consider your role as an encourager or “hope-giver”.
Our Heavenly Father’s Example
Psalm 10:17 You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; You encourage them, and You listen to their cry . . .
Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus . . .
Heb. 12:5-6 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.
(That last passage may not seem to be encouraging at first reading, but it is truly awesome that God accepts us as ‘sons’, with all the privileges of being His children; other people need to know that God will accept them.)
Our Assignment as Encouragers
1 Thess. 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
1 Thess. 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
2 Tim. 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Heb. 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Encouragement and Hope
Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
2 Thess. 2:16-17 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
As we talked through the results of our self-exam, most of us in the Lifegroup conceded that we are not there yet as high-ranking encouragers. Yet, we would like to be people of hope who pass that hope on to others. I think the encouragement exam will cause us to look for opportunities to be encouraging others. As children of God, we want to reflect His nature to those around us. And He is the ultimate encourager.
How about you? Are you an encourager? Would you like to be? Think about it.
©2011, Marcy Alves
*How Am I at Being an Encourager? c. 2000 Ken Williams Ph. D, International Training Partners
Posted on October 1, 2011, in Christian Growth, Follow Me, In the News, Reflections, Uncategorized and tagged Barnabas, Christianity, depression, encouragement, encouragers, encouraging Scriptures, God of encouragement, God of hope, heavenly Father, hope, hopelessness, offering hope, self-examination, words of encouragement. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.