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.