The holidays are over and many of us are looking for encouragement as we start the new year. Why are encouraging words so hard to come by? It’s almost as if there’s a shortage. By contrast, we turn on the news, walk into the break room at work, or go head-to-head in a family disagreement and hear a litany of despair-filled events, complaints and disparaging words that zap hope and pull us down into the muck of discouragement.
It’s hard to get out of the pits, especially if we’re trying to do it alone. So how can we find encouragement to lift us out of the mire and help us rise above our real life circumstances? Here are three ways:
1. Focus on who we’re standing with.
2. Receive the encouragement of others.
3. Offer encouragement to someone in need.
1. Focus on who we’re standing with. If someone asked, “Who’s on your team” or “who’s in your corner” what would you say? Some of us feel it’s “no one” or “the same people who discourage me.” It’s hard when the people closest to us say things that bring us down. And it’s hard when we’re not connected in positive community. No matter what we do, most of us can’t pick ourselves up day after day. We need to stand with someone and know that we’ll get through our struggles together. Who can we stand with?
- Stand with God. Here’s truth: we’re never alone. Even if we feel like we are. God is always with us. He is our provider. He is our protector. He is Jehovah-sabaoth, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. No matter what is happening in our life, He is the best person to be standing with. He is all-powerful. He is all-knowing. He is everywhere. Even when we’re in the darkest pits of life, He is ready to pull us up if we’ll turn to Him. Believing that God is ALWAYS in our corner is the first step to hope and encouragement.
- Stand with supportive sisters. Find one person that you can go to and ask for help. Tell her that you need encouragement. Many of us go through our trials alone because we don’t want to bother others, we feel like we should be able to handle them alone, or we feel like no one is there for us. Think of someone you believe is trustworthy and reach out. Let her know what’s going on and ask her to pray for you. This could be the start of a flow of encouragement.
2. Receive the encouragement of others. Sometimes it’s hard to receive the encouragement others are trying to give us. Either they don’t really understand our situation or they don’t know what to say to encourage us. What can we do?
- Step back from our emotions and be willing to appreciate their attempts at encouragement. It’s like being a boxer in a title fight and the only person in our corner is an intern that’s never seen a boxing match. They’re not much help in the critical moments no matter how eager they are, but at least they’re there and trying.
- Seek out someone who does understand our struggles and allow them to speak into our lives. Encouragement often comes through new perspective. If we’re willing to open up to someone who has walked a similar road, they can help us to see the big picture of where we are.
- Receive God’s encouragement through His Word. This really is the first thing we should do, but it’s often the last thing we try. Go to God and allow Him to speak to you through Scripture. During some of the most intense storms in my life I have immersed myself in the Psalms, Job and New Testament letters to hear God in His own words speak encouragement to me. And when I have earnestly pursued Him through His Word, He has always spoken.
3. Offer encouragement to others. It may seem counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to get out of the despair and gloom of our situation is to serve someone else. When we genuinely offer kindness and love to others, our spirits are lifted. It’s good to feel helpful and filled with purpose, and it allows us to step back from our own trials and gain a different perspective. And by praying for and with someone else, we open up a door for God to come into our heart and mind and bring His peace.
Encouragement may seem elusive, but if we look in the right places we can find hope and new perspective to not only sustain us, but to lift us to new heights.
Blessings and encouragement to you, my dear friends, in this new year!
“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16
Let’s Talk: Where do you find encouragement?
May I pray?
Jesus, thank You for the gift of encouragement and hope that You offer us each day. Help us to step back from our circumstances and focus on You. Strengthen us as we grow in sisterhood. Walk with us as we serve others in their hard times. May our words of encouragement to others be the encouragement we ourselves would like to receive. Amen.