Words of My Life: Encourage
In ongoing celebration of my Jubilee year of 50 years in ministry and 70 years of life, I am sharing some of the words of my life.
“When I’m with you, I think I can do anything.”
Our staff team was ending a day retreat with an affirmation time. Each of us wrote an affirmation for each team member. We gathered them by person, clipped them together and asked each one to read what teammates had said about her.It was a wonderfully affirming time for all of us, including for me. The most significant affirmation for me was the statement above from Caryn. I can hardly imagine anything I would rather someone say to or about me.
That statement pulls together what I believe is God’s core calling on my life: to encourage.
So what does it mean to encourage and how do I live it out?
Probably the most common understanding of “encourage” is to come alongside someone who is discouraged or failing or sad or fearful and by words and actions and presence to lift them up, to share positive attitudes, to give hope and help.
That is definitely a part of my encouragement ministry, especially evident in the Prayer for Prodigals community I participate in.
For me, though, “to encourage” goes well beyond that important aspect of lifting people up. "Exhort" conveys a fuller meaning. I usually define my sense of calling to “encourage God’s daughters and sons to become all that God created them to be and to do all that God has created them to do.”
How do I do this? I write, speak, help create resources, provide funding, pray, use Facebook and Twitter, advocate for…. In most conversations I look for ways to inspire, motivate, challenge: to encourage.
What do I seek to convey through all these means?
I want people to know how much God loves them. That He desires to be with them, to cover them with His mercy and grace. He calls them works of art and treasures. He created them just the way He desired them to be. He is committed to helping to grow into that person He made them to be. (Psalm 139; Ephesians 2:10; other passages).
And He assures each of us that he made us who we are so we can do the good works God has prepared for us. He is eager to reveal all this to us so we can rejoice in a deep relationship with Him, know how He made us, discover what He wants to do in and through us and fulfill our assignments in building God’s Kingdom. (Ephesians 2:10)
There is one more key part of encouraging. The literal meaning of encourage is to “put courage into.” Isn’t that what it takes—courage--to follow Jesus, to discover who and why He made us, to pursue all that He has for us.
The word courage comes from old French; many romance languages of Latin origin have a similar word with the root "cor," meaning "heart." “Courage” derives from the word for heart. We know that it takes a whole heart to have courage for the challenges of life.
So, bottom line, when I seek to encourage those I love, know or just encounter, I seek to help give them the heart to courageously pursue God’s good plans for their lives.
How about you? What is your calling in life?
C2015 Judy Douglass