There is something that you and I can do which will change people’s lives. It is very simple. It won’t cost you a penny. It will make you feel better. In fact, it will change your life as well as others.
I Thessalonians 4:18 tells us to encourage each other. Christianity is the voice of encouragement. Jesus came to help us understand that God loves us and that we were good enough because we are more than God’s creation. From the beginning of time, God has planned to redeem us. There are so many things that tear us down in this world. People are hurting and needing help. Uncertainty–because of lost jobs and plunging stock markets–leaves all of us panting for breathe as though we’ve run a marathon.
In the book of Judges, we have the fascinating story of Deborah and Barak. A general in the army, Barak, was commissioned to go to the front lines by God. However, he made a deal with the king’s resident judge, Deborah. He said, “If you will go with me, I will go.” Deborah agreed and God gave them a great victory.
Deborah encouraged Barak to do the right thing and God’s people were saved from an evil king. If sometimes lose sight of the fact that encouragement changes people and may even alter history. If this is true, then I should be asking, “To whom should I give encouragement?” The simplest answer is everyone.
Friends and family come first. Little notes of praise posted on Facebook or Twitter can change a friend’s day. Praise for your parents or children as they leave for the day will go with them until they are back home again. A call to your husband during lunch to let him know that you are praying for him and you appreciate his working all day will deepen your relationship.
Your enemy and people who do you wrong will be harder to encourage but it can be done. Catch them off guard. Tell them how much you appreciate something they have done. Years ago, I had a woman who didn’t like me or anything I did. Yet we were stuck together through our employment. I started rehearsing in my mind things I would say to her that would encourage her. Believe me, I had to repeat to myself again and again what I would say. At times, I would become so frustrated in her presence that I would forget my speech but I continued to rehearse. Finally, it became second nature for me to encourage her. She never changed her opinion of me. However, she did change her employment and that was even better.
How do we give encouragement to others? Say, “You look nice today,” and mean it. Your compliments must be sincere and truthful. There is something you can say that is nice about everyone. “I really like your hair.” “Those are great shoes.”
Learn to practice random acts of kindness and love. Make this part of your life. Encouragement can and should be more than a bumpersticker.
One of the most fun things you can do is encourage people you don‘t know. Have a nervous or slow cashier? Tell him you aren’t rushing him and he is doing a good job. Years ago, I encountered a worker at Wal-Mart who was the most nervous person I’d ever met as she waited on me. She apologized, “This is my first day.” This was a woman who was so down trodden that I wanted to embrace her and let her know that life would get better for her.
“Wow,” I said. “For your first day, you are doing a great job.” I prayed for her every time I was in the store. Whenever she waited on me, I would encourage her. Slowly, I began to see radical changes in her. Now, she smiled at her customers. She stood taller. Even her clothes and the way she wore them changed. Over the course of two or three years, I marked her progress silently.
One day while she was on break, I approached her. I explained that she had waited on me her first day and that I’d been praying for her ever since and I could not believe the improvements I’d seen in her life and appearance. I told her that I knew that God loved her very much because He had really urged me to pray for her. A bit stunned, she quietly thanked me. Later, as I walked away, she pulled herself up taller and smiled.
I’ve found that when I encourage others, I become part of God‘s plan for that person. God, the Father, wants blessing and goodness to fall to everyone. There may be no greater blessing for you than being a small part of allowing God mercy and grace fall on someone else through your encouragement.