It seems that everyone is facing a challenge of some sort and if not, they are often feeling caught up in the mundane tasks and duties of their world. Without a doubt, most of us are either looking for or would welcome a little encouragement.
We certainly can receive encouragement from God’s Word and times with Him in prayer and reflection, but there are times when the heavens seem closed to us and the Word reads like an assignment from a literature class we are not “feeling” if we are totally honest.
What does encouragement look like?
I think it may vary depending on our personality, the season of life we are in, our gender, our love language, or the levels of relationships we have or do not have.
I probably spent a great deal of my growing up years yearning for more encouragement than I felt I received. Chances are, I entered adulthood with a deficit in that area. One of the results in early adulthood was that I often was hoping, looking, or expecting encouragement without being very good at giving it.
I also must admit that even if I tried to offer encouragement to someone else, hoping to receive some in return often tainted my motive. I am sure you guessed the result of that. They did not really feel as encouraged as they might have desired since my primary focus was on me versus them.
That nudged me to look more deeply at my motives and wants to learn what my heart was truly longing to receive. Sometimes I received words that I knew were supposed to be encouraging to me, but somehow failed to hit the mark. My primary love languages are affirming words and quality time so what was the problem? On far too many occasions, my dear husband was left scratching his head wondering why his words had not reached the place he so desired to touch with his love for me.
My personal survey enlightened my understanding a bit. Too often in those growing up years I had heard a statement such as “that’s nice” or “that’s good” followed by a qualifier of how I could have done it differently or better. As a result, the words went KLUNK!! I realized that words like “nice job” or “good work” almost made me feel worse than no words at all. It was as if they went SPLAT against a wall.
What I was looking for was positive encouragement that was specific; words that allowed me to know the person had recognized an aspect of my performance or person.
Those types of words conveyed real care for me. They also said something else: “I really see you”. The more general words of praise failed to make the mark when they came from someone who had a significant relationship with me. Those general words were ones shouted out from stadium seats to players or performers we usually did not even know. The praise was real, but did not acknowledge a relationship with the receiver.
For me, true encouragement that nourished my soul came from relationships that were meaningful to me and included something more specific. Here are just a few examples:
- I loved when you…
- What I liked most was….
- I know you can do a good job on this because…
- The color of that dress is great on you.
I could make a longer list, but I am sure you see what I mean.
The most important thing I discovered was the Lord’s whispers to me were exactly what I needed and showed me clearly that He saw me and knew me. And a funny thing started to happen, I started to encourage others by attending to who they specifically were without concern for what I wanted or hoped to get from them.
I tapped into the true source of encouragement!
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)