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 church 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.
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?