Encouragement is a word, statement, or gesture that conveys an attitude of approval, of appreciation for, and a desire to see another person continue with what he/she is doing, seeking to do, expressing, or feeling. It may be as simple as a word of “thanks” or a pat on one’s back. It may be a personally written note of thanks and appreciation, or it may be a purchased card. It may be delivered in person, through the mail, over the phone or a loudspeaker, or by email, but in any case it is a sincere gift.
Encouragement can be singular or collective
I think that such a message or gesture is best when it is expressed to an individual, but a collected group of individuals may also be encouraged by a sincere message of approval and appreciation and continued best wishes for what they are doing. Where there is a strong spirit of teamwork and cooperation within a group, any sincere expression of encouragement to the group can be received and experienced by every individual within the group. But if there is any impaired sense of teamwork or cooperation within a group, not everyone in the group may feel the same degree of encouragement. Some individuals in some groups may need a very personal word of encouragement in such cases.
The need for encouragement
Everyone needs to be encouraged from time to time. Everyone at some time or another is engaged in something that is good, but it is challenging. It may just be a matter of growing up, or it may be a difficult project at work or home, or it may be learning something new (like operating a computer), or it may involve breaking a bad habit or getting free from an addiction or resisting a “sinful” temptation, or loosing some weight and getting in shape, or dealing with an “enemy” or someone with whom you differ, or fighting in a war, or recovering from a severe loss or injury or sickness, or being a faithful servant of God. Struggling against some addictions may be a daily battle that will require some daily reinforcements of encouragement to defeat.
In any case the individual may feel overwhelmed by the challenge or discouraged by his/her inability to meet it. He/she may get tired of the struggle, perhaps of trying to raise two or three young children by one’s self or finding a new job when one is past fifty years of age. Individuals in “broken” families probably need a lot of encouragement on a regular basis. Some of the normal channels for encouragement may not be present in such situations.
Individuals who are going through grief over the death of a spouse or another relative or close friend can be easily seen to be in the need of encouragement, but in some of these cases the message of encouragement may need to be repeated frequently. A quick word or gesture may not be enough. Most men who loose their jobs will need some encouragement in their efforts to find another. A few men may have other nice opportunities for comfortable employment waiting for them. Housewives who find themselves divorced will need a lot of encouragement as they seek to deal with the challenges of their new situations. Children who are trying to take care of their elderly parents (or parent) who may have been stricken with some infirmity of “old age” will need encouragement from time to time. Individuals in families where someone is away on active duty in military service will need a lot of frequent encouragement.
Life is not fair. Not all individuals are equal. The resources of the government can’t meet every need. No doctor or treatment or medicine may be immediately or completely effective. A large bank account may not be an adequate sanctuary against many fears, dangers, or moments of depression. There are dangers and risks around many corners. The devil never takes a holiday. Current beneficial resources may become depleted or they may be overwhelmed, as in the case of some natural disasters.
Even one’s relationship with God, one’s spiritual resources of religion and faith in any god, may be tested and tried by the challenges of living. Trying to serve God on the “battlefield” of this world is a challenging struggle for anyone. Many prophets of God’s word in the Bible expressed their feelings of discouragement and frustration in the midst of their challenging ministries. Priests, preachers, rabbis, teachers of what is GOOD and true and of ultimate personal benefit to others do not have an easy responsibility. The book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible is an extensive account of the suffering of one man who lost almost everything of value in his life.
The gift of encouragement
A message or a gesture of encouragement to someone who is struggling with a personal challenge or who is discouraged and otherwise overwhelmed by his/her present situation is a gift. It is not a reward. It is not a payment that is earned. It is a very special blessing when it is given at just the time it is needed, especially if its need has not been announced. Such a timely deliverance of this gift of encouragement is a testimony to a strong bond of sensitive support and love that exists between two individuals.
This gift of encouragement should be used as a means of blessing for individuals who are seeking to accomplish something good in their lives, who are seeking to overcome some challenging difficulties that are destructive of their lives, relationships, bodies, and eternal destinies. It is certainly needed by non-Christians, but it is also regularly needed by Christians. It is especially needed by Christians and others who are seeking to confront the challenges of the devil in the lives of others and to overcome the damaging effects of sin in their lives and that of their relatives, friends, associates, and other church members.
Paul, one of the primary teachers of Christianity and the author of many of the documents of the New Testament, teaches that we are to “encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5:11). He gives some detailed instructions for doing this in subsequent verses 12–23. They include giving special words of encouragement to “the timid” (verse 14). This gift can be expressed in patience (verse 14) and kindness (verse 15). It involves holding “on to the good”(verse 21), which is the theme of this website.
Encourage one another in what is GOOD with words of “thanks”, “keep up the GOOD work”, “don’t give up”, “God bless you”, pats on one’s back, friendly hugs, timely calls, surprising notes, some unexpected flowers, a personal effort of help, daily prayers, and consistent friendship and love. Encouragement is a special gift with eternal benefits.