June 28, 2022
by Maria Fontaine
Encouragement is the leaven of the soul. It lifts the heavy heart, strengthens the drooping hope, stirs the potential of the mind in positive ways. For the giver, it opens their eyes to see that spark of the Divine in others.1
Encouragement is an important way of demonstrating God’s love. When people feel accepted, loved, and valued as the creation of God that they are, it begins an upward spiral in their lives that can expand their horizons, embolden their faith, and motivate them to greater things.
A dear co-worker shared a testimony with me of how she was again reminded of the importance of sincerely acknowledging the qualities in others at every opportunity. She prefaced her letter with a quote:
“The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Yet, almost no one gets all the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they need to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would produce abundance beyond our wildest dreams.”2
This quote made me think of you, Maria, as I believe one of your strong gifts is the gift of encouragement. I know this is not a new topic and it might be that we have grown a little familiar with it, but encouragement is something very powerful that we can give to others. I believe it warrants a frequent reminder for us all.
A few months back, the Lord put on my heart to write a couple of my friends about a special gift that they have of making people feel at home and welcomed by hosting them. I had read some books about Christian hospitality, about fellowship centered around the table, and I felt that I should let these friends know that I recognize and value that quality in them, how generous they are in giving to others in that way. It costs real money and takes real time. Their hosting of others is a precious gift that takes a sacrifice to give, but they give it freely.
So I sat down and wrote the note. The next day I heard back from them. I felt rewarded to hear how touched they were to get my note, and how encouraged they were to hear that this gift shines through them and is a blessing to others.
When we consider other Christians, we might assume that our words of encouragement are not so needed because they have Jesus to hold onto. However, many times, He provides the love and support and encouragement that we need through our brothers and sisters in Him.
You never know what situation they might be in: their child might be going through a difficult stage in their lives, or they have just had a health scare themselves or are concerned for a family member who has. Perhaps their efforts to help others might have left their finances extra tight, and they may be wondering if continuing to give in the way they are is really worth the sacrifices they are making.
We all need encouragement to continue using our gifts to love and to be Jesus to others. It’s an investment that is more than worth its weight in gold because it leaves an impact that helps to change lives.
Maria: We can all do our part to encourage others. I love to find ways to apply this principle, especially to our brothers and sisters in the Lord who are giving of themselves day after day but many times receive so little recognition. Reminding them that they are appreciated for who they are and for their love for the Lord can make a major difference in their lives.
Acts of kindness and generosity like the couple in the testimony above are also forms of encouragement that are given to others. We comfort others with the comfort that we ourselves are comforted of God. It becomes a chain reaction as we encourage one another in the Lord, and that encouragement spreads outward to countless others.
I came across a beautiful story about how someone chose to express the value they saw in two people by meeting a temporary need in their lives. It began in a small way and then grew and grew. The story goes like this:
A man named Bob heard about two young refugees in his small town who needed temporary housing. These teenage brothers spoke very little English, were separated from their family, and didn’t know anyone but each other.
Bob volunteered to provide a temporary place for them to stay. He was entirely unfamiliar with the part of the world these young people came from. But he was a person committed to practicing generosity, and so he prepared his guest room for these boys.
The temporary stay extended, and extended, and extended. He taught them to use computers and tracked down used computers for them. He taught them to drive. He took them to get driver’s licenses and to their language classes. He helped them buy used cars. He learned about their country and their traditions and their religion. He asked them to teach him about the foods they missed, because he wanted to learn to fix those meals for them. He immersed himself in immigration law and process. He took on the roles of their advocate, their mentor, their friend.
He helped them get jobs, and when they started dating, they brought their girlfriends to dinner to meet Bob. When one of their girlfriends needed to go back to her country of origin for visa reasons, it was Bob who accompanied her and her young son. He became a father figure, and they became like sons and daughters.
He changed their lives. And they absolutely changed his.
Bob was my grandpa, Robert Lawrence Barry, and he died just shy of his ninety-first birthday. In the weeks before his passing, we all shared stories about this extraordinary community that began with what was supposed to be just a temporary stay. These two young men, and eventually their wives and their children—all these lives—have been so powerfully shaped by the generosity and commitment of one man.
My grandpa met these young men when he was eighty-five years old. This incredible story happened over five years. At a time in life when most people are winding down and settling into routines, Grandpa did the opposite.
If you think you’re too old to make a difference, to encourage someone by valuing them, you’re not. If you think you don’t have enough time left to build something really beautiful, you’re wrong.
It’s not too late for you. It’s never, ever too late to grow.3
Maria: Taking the time to encourage someone through our words or actions, in big ways or small, helps to make this world a better place. Even if we don’t have the resources to do something like Bob did, there is always something we can do.
Making sincere encouragement a part of our daily lives can be applied to any interaction we have with other people. If it helps someone to see themselves as worthwhile, it can serve as a reminder that they are loved.
Of course, if someone doesn’t know Jesus, our primary goal is to help them to draw closer to Him. But even when it’s not possible for some reason to bring the Lord into the picture, the act of encouraging them can help to lift their spirit enough to give them hope that there is love in this world.
The Lord can then use that, together with other touches of His love and our prayers to bring them to Him. So never despise the day of small things. He that is faithful in that which is least will be faithful in much. Many great gears turn on tiny pivot points.
You may discover that most people are considerate or thoughtful in some way, and your acknowledgment of those things will many times motivate them to do them even more. It can break down walls and open their hearts, and like the tide, it lifts all boats, including your own.
You can look for ways to do this with family and loved ones, friends and associates, or people who simply cross your path. I believe that the impact of incorporating this principle of encouragement into your life can result in more than you would imagine possible, as the river of encouragement flows through you to the lives of others.
1 Author unknown.
2 Sidney Madwed.
3 Adapted from Shauna Niequist, I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet: Discovering New Ways of Working When the Old Ways Stop Working (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2022).