Saturday, October 13, 2012

Three principles for real encouragement

It has taken me a while to write this final chapter in my thinking about encouragement because I've realised that it is complicated trying to work out what practical encouragement looks like for different people.

So here are three little principles I think are useful when we think about how we're going to encourage one another as Christians.

1.  It needs to be about Jesus.  The core purpose of encouragement is that it exists to help us keep trusting in the truth of the good news of Jesus.  It reminds us that we are part of God's family - we are not alone.  We encourage one another by pointing each other back to the truth ('speaking the TRUTH in love').

2.  It needs to NOT be about me.  Sometimes I see women (myself included) involved in the act of encouragement because it makes us feel more connected to someone else.  As we cook a meal we are thinking less of service and more about strengthening a relationship.  Which is all nice - but what happens if we end up neglecting someone who we might not like very much, or desire much of a friendship with?

3.  It needs to be about the OTHER person.  What we do when we aim to encourage needs to have involved much humble thought about the other person.

My friend may have thought lovely notes were the way to go.  But it did nothing for me.  But if someone had given me lots of their time and a good conversation - that's gold in my world.

When we had little babies my husband found people dropping meals over difficult to manage - he just wanted to cook his own food.  When he was tired and things felt out of control, he wanted familiar food.  A bit weird to me, who loves a good meal that I didn't cook, but we need to be sure that what we're offering is ACTUALLY going to help the other person.

And that's why you turn up to church - because it's not about what mood you're in or what a rotten week you've had or how tired you are that determines whether or not you muster up the energy to get there.  It's because turning up provides encouragement to OTHER people.

7 comments:

Graham and Heather said...

The last paragraph is a bit counter-cultural!!

Karen said...

Glad you got back to finish this series off :)
Some really helpful thoughts that I need to pray about. I was really challenged by point 2.
And thinking about what really would be helpful (and recognising that this might be different for different people) is a great point too. I think we often do what feels right to us without much thought of what the other person might actually need/want.

Sarah said...
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Sarah said...

Yep, it sure does look different to different people. And it's about pointing each other towards Christ. Amen to that!

But sometimes even though what the other person thought was encouraging didn't really encourage me, I can still see that their intention was good. So if they brought me a meal when I had gastro, then it's not helpful, but at least they tried to show some sort of care. The worst is when people ignore you because they feel uncomfortable and you're left to suffer and feel discouraged in silence.

Jenny said...

Yes, absolutely, yes. Thank you Sarah. Great point. Sometimes nothing happens because we're all too scared to do the wrong thing. This is such a hard topic to get right-I will continue thinking ...

Sandra said...

Don't know if you're reading Dave McDonald's blog - he's been writing some really helpful stuff about this, especially in the light of illness and carers. Sarah is right too - sometimes people don't do the 'appropriate' thing, but that can just be due to a lack of insight and understanding - in a way the recipient is encouraging them by being gracious about what they have given.
Must admit though there are weeks when I wonder if I am providing any encouragement to anyone by being at church. Your are encouraging me to keep persevering.

Sarah said...

I've felt the same as Sandra at times in regards to going to church, but then I was hugely encouraged by an elderly lady at my church (who passed away recently at age 98. Just because she made such an effort to come to church despite being frail. I didn't have many conversations with her (which were hard because she was a bit deaf), but just her presence was an enormous encouragement. I could see through her actions that she valued meeting with God's people. I've also been encouraged by a young mum who keeps persevering in coming to church despite the fact she spends most of the service in the cry room. This post has prompted me to tell her that. Come January I may well be the one in the cry room.