I was sitting in the car inside a parking lot, taking a moment to think about changes in my life and work. It felt like I had hit a plateau, and I was honestly a little worried.
Suddenly a man popped up next to my window. Short, straggly, and with an air of boundless cheer, he greeted me warmly. I was a little surprised, and even more cautious. Crime is rampant in South Africa, and there are plenty of opportunists looking for an easy mark.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all had someone say a few words of encouragement that radically changed our day or the course of events, just because of the extra inspiration and change of perspective those words brought. Maybe we were at the end of our rope, and someone’s encouragement opened a whole new horizon of possibilities. Or maybe we’d simply had a long and tiring day, and a few cheerful words renewed our inspiration and energy.
I teach you how to have love through My own example. For every great miracle I do for you and all those who love Me, I do countless tiny things that you may barely notice. Those steady demonstrations of My care, My unconditional love, My touches of hope, strength, mercy, and forgiveness, day in and day out, continually manifest My love for you. This multitude of little things that I do for you increases your peace and faith. These things nurture the conviction in your heart that I am real and active in your life, and that I will be forever.
One busy day, I was trying to get my boys to their computer classes on time when we realized that we couldn’t find one of their textbooks nor the house key. More frayed nerves and frantic running around. In the midst of it all, my phone beeped. It was a text message from a number I didn’t recognize, and I was taken by surprise by what I read:
Bill and I are old friends. When we met up for coffee recently, he told me about his difficulties. His wife has developed a chronic condition which has left her bedridden, and Bill is struggling with her care. Meanwhile, he is overwhelmed by the demands at his workplace and the fear of losing his job. This has led to a crisis of faith. I had found myself battling with similar emotions not long ago. We prayed together, but later I felt I had more to share, and this is the letter I wrote.
As I was researching material for a short story about an antique dealer who collected rare butterflies, I came across a website1 that revealed a rich resource of stories involving those fascinating creatures.
What makes people crave a fruit like durian? Why do they light up when they see clumps of those prickly, greenish-brown husks hanging liberally from vendor stalls? How do they get past the pungent, even revolting, odor? What makes them fight their way through the thick, prickly outer husk in order to reach the inside?
I believe that God wants to encourage people, but often He needs us to do it. And, believe it or not, we do have what others need. We have God’s Holy Spirit and His words of love! Our life can be influential because of the power of our words. Our words don’t need to be profound or eloquent—just simple words that meet a person’s need for love, hope, significance, or comfort.
More people fail for lack of encouragement than for any other reason.
The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Yet, almost no one gets 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.
—Sidney Madwed (b. 1948)
The Roman author Tertullian (c.160–c. 225), when speaking of the early church, reported that the pagans would exclaim, “See how they love one another!” Clearly the Christians’ concern and care was visible in their actions, attitudes, and words.