Hebrews 10:24,25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…Let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”
In a recent home visit I was pleased to see in open display many cards and notes of encouragement to the one whom I visited. They were daily visual reminders of the warmth, care and concern of others—and it served to encourage. About a month ago I took initiative to speak with a neighbor and one conversation led to another and we found we had a few things in common personally and recreationally. Within a few days my new neighbor friend surprised me by writing a hand written note thanking me for listening and offering encouragement—I strained at first to know who it came from—but nonetheless found myself encouraged by their thanking me for encouraging them. Who would have a clue that a bit of effort and attention could have such impact?
A Methodist minister named William Stidger of Boston Massachusetts had fallen into a very deep depression. During this time a wise friend had advised him to deal with the melancholia by reaching out to others with a goal of encouraging them. Stidger sat down and began to recall benefits he had received from other people—he soon thought of an English teacher that had touched and inspired him for a number of years during adolescents. She had instilled in him a love of poetry that had stayed with him his whole life. He pulled out some stationary and wrote her a letter of thanks though he had not seen her in many years.
He received a rapid reply, she wrote: “My dear Willie.” That helped him immediately for no one in the world still called him that. “My dear Willie, I cannot tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, feeling rather lonely, like the last leaf in autumn. You will be interested to know that having taught school for fifty years yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. I came on a blue-cold morning and it cheered me as nothing has in many months.”
A nearly tangible brightness entered William Stidger’s heart as he read those words. It evaporated part of the fog of his own spiritual lethargy, and he then began to write words of encouragement to other people. During the process, his interest in ministry was re-invigorated because he took the initial step to encourage others.
Bible Scholar William Barclay calls encouragement the highest human duty. It’s so easy to dampen… to find fault…to be critical. The old poem says it so well.
I watched them tearing a building down,’ A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and a sidewall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are those men as skilled,
As the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He laughed and said, “Oh no, indeed!
Just a common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
It takes skill and planning and forethought to build—not much tear down—a wrecking ball and a permit. Is my life more like a wrecking ball or a construction crew? Encouragement is a fundamental virtue—providing needed oxygen to breathless and tired souls. So I encourage us all to be profuse in the gift of encouragement. It might give someone the hope and courage needed to move forward. He encouraged me to tell you!