Encouragement from the Body of Christ

Offering hope and encouragement to people who are only struggling with minor inconveniences in life doesn’t really test one’s ability as a counselor. Much more difficult is to offer encouragement to someone who is in a deep valley, struggling with heart-wrenching sorrow, which also usually lasts over an extended period of time. This is truly a test of patience and strength.

Paul, in his letters to the early Bible-encourage, fellowship, counselchurch however, makes it very clear that we as a church body are to reach out to those who are in crisis and struggling. And not simply reach out, but for the strong to carry the weak. We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15

To the church in Thessalonica: …encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. I Thessalonians 5:14

To the church in Philippi Paul says to be: …like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:2-5

To the Galatians: …serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

I could go on with more examples, but it is clear that we are called to come together as one body in Christ. The elders and the stronger are to lead the flock and care for the weaker, presumably until such time as the weak are healed and able to do the same. When we no longer hear the cry for help in someone’s words…when we no longer hear the struggle, feel the pain and sorrow…when we only take offense at words as they try to express the despair and grief they are feeling…then we are no longer effective. But Peter, in speaking to the church elders, says to feed the flock and remain humble. 1 Peter 5:1-6

God desires that everyone learn and grow spiritually from the things we are tested with. So …let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1-2 In the past, I have counseled those who are in crisis and hurting. There are times when it can be difficult to love the unlovable. But each of us can be unlovable, given the right circumstances.

Below is a list I have composed of some of the words of encouragement I’ve received from friends as I walk through a deep valley in my life. Each time I read through it, I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit offering comfort, peace and hope. I am forever grateful for the love, compassion and hope I have received from my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sometimes encouragement can be the simplest expression, maybe a short text message:

Ya. Hang in there.

I will pray.

Amen.

Praise the Lord.

I truly do understand your pain.

My heart breaks for you.

At times encouragement can be a prayer or blessing said over someone:

May God bless your day and lead you.

May God fill you with peace to overflowing.

I pray God be with u and bless u. May he put his hand of healing upon u and strengthen u.

Encouragement can also come in the form of reassurance, even offering a pardon when I have been unlovable:

When you wake up give it to the Lord; I also have had bad experiences at night.

Stop worrying about what people think.

We might feel alone but we are not.

No need to apologize.  It’s a tough time and I understand.

You can be out of line anytime you want;) but you weren’t – in case you were wondering.

I have heard much worse. But you are right, I don’t fully understand. [You spoke] a lot of wisdom regarding God’s forgiveness and how it is ongoing. May God continue to reveal his truth to you.

I believe that in your situation [you are making] the correct decision, in God’s eyes also.

I believe that the enemy’s forces are always attacking Gods kids, especially during difficult valleys of life.

[Sometimes we] question where God is. I have had the same struggles; all I can tell you is that even though it seems that there is nothing good that can come of this, it will.

I have grown the most in the days when I didn’t think that I could go on.

You have been carrying the load yourself; you just didn’t know it.

We just have to trust God in all things; even accepting the things that we can’t change.

This period in your life will pass; you will learn to move ahead.

The struggles you are facing now is the process of spiritual growth, and it is painful but you will make it. Expect bad days, but try to make good ones.

We can’t control what happens but we can choose how to respond. Just keep hanging on to Jesus.

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is that God is strong enough to care for the wounded and battle-scarred without ever giving up. He will not grow weary, will not become offended. He will heal our hearts with love and longsuffering, and see it through to the joyous other side of the storm. God is our perfect Counselor.

Will you offer encouragement and hope to someone today?

Proof of God’s Faithfulness

As I head toward the house, I look back at the wood, now stacked and ready for the week’s use, and I feel a sense of accomplishment at this weekly chore. Looking at my watch I see that it has only been a few hours, but I know that I couldn’t have done it without my teenage son and daughter helping. I also remember that the wood wouldn’t be split and ready for stacking without the three men from church – all in their 70’s – who split logs and cut kindling for me this fall.gods-faithfulness-wood-stacked

I recognize the Lord’s hand of provision and the blessings He has poured out. I have experienced His faithfulness in meeting all our physical needs, in part through the kindness of others. 

These physical challenges I now face are tangible evidence of the fact that things at home have changed. I have reassurance, though, that God is unchanging, His love and strength unending.  Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Less tangible but far more debilitating, are the emotional struggles. 

My sleep is disturbed by Fear creeping in and I’m constantly tired, waking up with an overwhelming sense of dread and loss. I’m adjusting to changes in finances, work, parenting, and more. With so much going on in my life right now, I’m walking a high wire and it doesn’t take much to tip me.

People who don’t know the facts (don’t need to), but think they have all the answers, say insensitive things, wrong things. I try to brush it off, pray, give it to the Lord, but it comes back (I’m working on letting go more fully). The enemy knows exactly where to attack. Pressure builds, things converge, and I begin to panic. I don’t want to free-fall again, but down I go, sinking into the mire, going under. This scares me more than anything. I look to the Father and beg for help, and I know He is with me.

I praise God that although I am weak, He is strong. He never lets go of me. God is faithful, giving comfort and hope; and blessing me with dear friends who provide encouragement, strength, love and Godly counsel. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had Romans 15:5.

Why then do I fall apart weekly? Why can’t I hold on tighter to the hope that I have in God?

We were not made to carry a weight like this alone; nor were we designed to hide it, bury it, or brush it off. God wants us to rely on His strength, to cry out to Him for help as the Psalmists did:

Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 143:7
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1-3

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17
T
he Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is the depth of my Father’s faithfulness reaches far beyond any pit I sink into. Jesus holds me near and doesn’t let go; He stays with me through each storm and sees me through to the other side. He wipes away every tear.

I have come to understand that as I walk through this valley, it is not a test of my faithfulness to God, but, rather, it is proof of God’s faithfulness to me.

Anger: Healthy or Hurtful?

I have lived under the devastating effects of the sinful expression of anger for most of my life. It crushes the spirit. It breaks trust. It destroys relationships. It creates a “calloused heart“. I, too, have sinned in this area, measuring the severity of my transgression against that of another and deciding – I’m not that bad.

Recently, in response to grief and pain in my life, I have felt anger – and in this situation a righteous anger is okay. Still, on occasion, I have hurt those closest to me with angry words which I tried to justify… I’m just venting. You don’t understand. If you were in my place… I can’t help it. It’s right that I’m angry.

And – yes – it is right that I’m angry. The question isn’t whether or not anger itself is wrong, but, rather, how am I expressing it? Scripture tells us Be ye angry, and sin not…Ephesians 4:26.

Anger at sin is okay when it is expressed in a healthy way. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1 We see over and over in Scripture that God gets angry at sin and rebellion: And the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the Lord, was consumed. Numbers 32:13 But we need to be careful. Why are we angry? How are we expressing it? He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. Proverbs 16:32

Talk to God; tell Him about your hurt, confusion, despair. Pray that God will show you how to express your anger in a right way. “God is good for having brought me to the point of admitting my sin.”Brad Hambrick offers some excellent resources on overcoming anger.

Is your anger hurting you or those around you?