We all need encouragement. As blogger Jared Olivetti says, “Regardless of what our hearts or Hollywood tell us, no one inherently has the strength needed to do what God calls us to do.” God knows our need and provides a remedy for it: encouragement from others.
The word encouragement is built around the word courage. I like to think that when I encourage someone, I pass on small doses of courage that expand their ability to do what God has designed them to do.
We naturally think of encouragement as using words to build others up. But as I studied the Scriptures on encouragement, I discovered that encouragement also includes actions. Following are some ways I have found to encourage others. Choose one to implement this week—or invent your own.
Tell the Boss
When a worker does a great job or provides exceptional service, I often tell them that I plan to write a note or phone their boss to commend them.
Encourage an Encourager
My pastors continually challenge us to love and good works. I like to email them, telling them specific things about their sermons that helped me or inspired me to think about God in a new way.
Support Someone's Idea
Express confidence in someone’s plans. Example: "Your idea about a neighborhood cleanup campaign will help us all to know our neighbors better."
A family we knew was struggling financially. We could have given them money directly, but we did not want them to feel obligated to us. We met as a family and decided to help them out anonymously. After careful planning, our daughter and I drove to their house, quietly crept up to their mailbox, and slipped in an envelope full of cash.
My wife and I had donated some food to a single pastor who was living on a meager salary. He wanted to thank us in a unique way. One day he appeared at our door and asked to come in. Before we knew it, he broke into song. His face and the choice of his songs said so much to us. It was one of the most unique gifts we have ever received. What a great example of Ephesians 5:19,20! "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanksto God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (BSB).
Remember the Past Together
One of my friends had been depressed for quite some time and, like Jacob, had been wrestling with God. I wrote him a letter reminding him of the many times he had faced adversity and had persistently leaned into it head-on and been victorious. He later told me how much that letter had meant to him.
Encourage a Group
Groups, as well as individuals, need encouragement. Near the end of a conference for international university students and young professionals last summer, the leaders built in a time for encouragement. Joy filled the room as one by one the participants shared what they appreciated about each other. The leaders knew the importance of small doses of encouragement.
Build Encouragement Resources
My favorite stationery store has unique cards for every occasion as well as blank cards with original art. I always keep a stash of cards on hand. That way I can send an encouraging note as soon I hear about someone's loss or blessing.
Plan a Special Event
Why wait for birthdays and anniversaries to honor friends and family? Years ago a friend of mine knew her friend was hurting after her father died. She put together a special tea for her with a beautiful table setting, fresh fruit, homemade scones, and clotted cream. The grieving friend still comments about how encouraged she was by this act of love.
Speak with Your Eyes
Navigator Jean Fleming taught me by example how to “applaud with my eyes” when listening to a speaker. She has a gracious way of nodding her head in agreement as if to say, "Yes, yes, that is an interesting point! Oh, please tell me more."
Honor the Kids
Create an opportunity to tell parents something positive about their kids . . . in front of their kids. Encouragement often goes beyond the person being encouraged and blesses others who hear it. It's a kind of double blessing.
Honor the Parents
Likewise, create an opportunity to tell kids something positive about their parents . . . in front of their parents.
Cook a Meal
Cook a meal or dessert that has a special meaning to someone. Think of something that is relevant to their culture or family background.
For 30 years my friend had been full of kind words and affirmations for me, but now he was in hospice care and I wanted to encourage him. But how? He was a unique man, and I wanted to give him something that fit his personality. I found a local artist who could paint a nature scene and include some meaningful words I had shared with my friend during an earlier phone call. He hung the picture so he could see it as he lay in his bed.
Deliver Yourself as a Letter
We are living letters (2 Corinthians 3:3). So consider sending yourself on a short (or long) "mission trip" to a friend so you can deliver yourself like a letter. “After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:23 NIV).
I have a friend who still writes letters longhand. He occasionally takes an original photograph he shot high in the Rocky Mountains and creates a card telling me how I helped him in Bible study. His notes are honest and sincere, reflecting his heart. I have saved them for the last 10 years. They are more than cards; they are memorials to a lasting friendship.
Some types of encouragement cost us next to nothing, others cost much. When Paul traveled to the early churches to encourage them, how much do you think it cost him? He loved them enough to sacrifice his time and money for lodging, food, and travel. He saw it as a calling, an investment in others. Love always costs something, one way or another. But the benefits always outweigh the costs.
One author sums it up this way: “Encouragement makes it easier to live the Christian life.” And encouragement is a renewable resource. It breeds encouragement in others. It is part of God’s plan to pick us up and keep us going in this fallen world.
Randy Raysbrook is Encore staff in Colorado Springs, Colorado. To contact him or learn more about his ministry, click here.