Merriam-Webster defines encourage as: to inspire with courage. One of its synonyms, embolden, implies the giving of courage sufficient to overcome timidity or reluctance.
According to Dr. Tim Elmore, the death rate of American POWs during the Korean War were alarmingly high. As were the depression and suicide rates. Interestingly, the war camp conditions weren’t especially cruel. In fact, the detainees endured relatively minor amounts of physical torture. It didn’t add up…Dr. William E. Mayer conducted a study that yielded some surprising results: the men were dying because they had simply lost the will to live. The North Koreans had discovered the ultimate weapon of war: withholding all emotional support from others. No word of encouragement was ever spoken.
The captors rewarded prisoners for snitching on one another and even required the men to confess their deepest faults before the entire group. Any sense of hope was completely torn away. The effects were devastating. Not only did the prisoners stop caring about one another, they stopped caring about themselves. It was not uncommon to see a prisoner go off into a corner, sit alone, and wait to die (Elmore, T. 2010).
Some people simply have a gift! Some people are encouragers! A sweet girl I know, named Caitlyn, is one example. She was once a student of mine, but has become a sweet friend over the past year. This girl has a gift. She is by far the most encouraging person I’ve ever known. Every time she leaves my office I end up feeling like a million bucks. Sometimes I wonder if she even realizes she possesses this gift. I wonder what life would look like if we could surround ourselves with Caitlyns on a daily basis. What could we accomplish if we were constantly filled with the type of encouragement that makes people feel like they could do anything!
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Just as you are doing. Keep encouraging each other. Don’t stop. In life. In your walk with Christ. In your job. In your relationships. In momming. Whatever it may be! Life is hard. Continually encourage one another!
In Colossians 4, Paul mentions some of the men who had been a comfort to him (v. 11) and that he had sent Tychicus to the people of Colossae that he may encourage their hearts (v. 8). I can’t help but seeing tons of examples of how people are able to “give courage” to others.
Embolden, again, implies the giving of courage sufficient to overcome timidity or reluctance. Maybe someone you know is reluctant about a certain situation. Sharing the gospel. Discipling someone. Applying for a new job. Moving to a new place. Trying to have another baby! Whatever it may be! In the midst of their timidity or reluctance, be someone who gives courage!
Once upon a time, I ran a half marathon. At every turn there was someone standing there flooding the runners (ahem…slow joggers) with encouragement. I’ve run lots of races in my life and it’s strange to think about the fact that the longest race I’ve ever run was one of the easiest. It was the constant flood of encouragement that fueled me to keep going. To enjoy the journey. To finish despite its difficulty!
A few weeks ago in my leadership class. I asked my students to write two letters. Think of two people who needed some type of encouragement and write a letter. Before the class ended, one student asked if they were turning them in. No! I want you to actually give the letters to the people you wrote them to. Faces were appalled! Wait you mean you want me to give this to them?
Why not? Why was it such a difficult concept to think of giving someone a boost of encouragement. In a place where negativity, comparison, and brokenness run rampant…why not be the courage giver?!