Encouragement 101 Part 1 - Girlfriends in God - Mar. 26, 2013

March 26, 2013

Encouragement 101

Part 1

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ”(Colossians 2:2, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Every day we cross paths with hurting people. A word of encouragement, an act of kindness, a caring smile may be enough to keep them on their feet. We want to be encouragers but may not know where to start. Over the next two days, we will explore seven ways you and I can practice encouragement and build each other up in everyday life.

Listen to Those Who Are Hurting

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (Psalms 10:17). Sometimes the best encouragement is simply a listening heart. Listening doesn’t require that we fix anything or even that we arrive at a solution. Listening sends the message “I’m here for you. Just for you. I want to understand and share your pain.” We often miss opportunities to give encouragement because we are broadcasting when we should be listening.

I once had an elderly neighbor who loved to talk…a lot. I knew when I ran into her it meant my routine would be interrupted. One day I was out walking when I turned the corner and there she was. I knew I could breeze by her with some lame excuse, but in a rare moment of wisdom, I chose to stop and listen.

I am so glad I did. Her 42-year-old son had just died, and she desperately needed my encouragement.

When we listen to people, we validate their feelings. We invite them into our lives by giving them the most precious gift we have—time. Listening is encouragement.

Comfort with Your Words

“But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief” (Job 16:5). The spoken word is powerful, and spoken words of encouragement can bring great comfort. The idea is not to speak many words, but the right words. Consider this:

·         The Lord’s Prayer contains 71 words.

·         The Gettysburg Address contains 272 words.

·         The Ten Commandments contains 139 words.

·         The Declaration of Independence contains 1323 words.

·         A U.S. government order setting the price of cabbage contains 26,911 words.

When it comes to words with impact, being long-winded is not a value. But speaking the right words can be life changing.

Written notes of encouragement often carry even greater impact because they can be kept and read again and again. In the midst of my struggle with depression, I would often slip into a worship service at our church through a side door to escape being noticed. I came in late to worship one day and sat off to the side in order to avoid questioning eyes and concerned stares. My timing was bad because I had managed to get there just in time to welcome the visitors. I simply had no energy or desire to shake hands or smile at anyone, so I sat in my chair hoping everyone would understand and leave me alone. Then I saw him coming. One of our deacons had spotted me and was walking across the auditorium with a big smile on his face. I wanted to run. He put his arm around my shoulder and gently hugged me. He never said a word, but pressed a piece of paper into my hand and left as quickly as he had come. Through tears I read the precious note that said, “I love you and am praying for you. If you or Dan ever need me for anything, I am here.” Healing comfort flooded my wounded heart and I found I had the strength to stay.

It’s not how long we talk or how many eloquent words we use that matters. It is what we say that is so important. The words we speak are like seeds. What we plant will grow. We can speak words of encouragement that God will take and use to bring hope and give comfort. Comforting with your words is encouragement.

Get Involved

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). When Jered was in second grade, there was a little boy in his class who no one liked because he was a bully and truly obnoxious. One Monday morning this young man came to school with both arms in casts from his shoulders to his wrists. He had fallen out of a tree and broken both arms. The teacher announced to the class that Johnny would need a “volunteer friend” for the next six weeks while he was in the casts. This “friend” would have to help Johnny do everything, from completing class assignments to feeding him lunch—and would even need to accompany him to the restroom.

After a few painful moments of silence, one hand went up. I have never been prouder of my son, who volunteered to be Johnny’s helper. Jered had struggled to like Johnny, but his sensitive heart could not bear to see the look on Johnny’s face when there were no volunteers. I wondered what the next few weeks would hold for my son. As it turned out, I was the one who learned a very important lesson. At the end of the six-week period, three amazing things had happened. First, Jered and Johnny became friends. Second, because Jered was well liked by everyone in the class, the other children decided that if Jered liked Johnny, then they could like him as well. But the greatest change was in Johnny himself. His behavior totally changed. It was as if he decided that since Jered liked him and the other kids liked him, he could be likable.

Sometimes we must become actively involved in someone’s life to encourage them. Don’t miss tomorrow’s devotion for more ways to be an encourager.

Let’s Pray

Father, I know You want me to share the love I have found in You. Forgive me for the many times I have been too busy to see the needs around me. Break my heart for those who are in pain and feel hopeless. Encourage them through me, Lord. Fill my heart with Your love so that I can give it away.

In Jesus’s name,


Now It’s Your Turn

Read Galatians 5:22-23  “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Make a list of the attributes listed in Galatians 5:22-23  Beside each one, write the name of someone who needs you to live out that quality in his or her life. Here are a few examples to help you get started:

Love: Jane - my neighbor who is struggling with her teenage son

Joy: Sally - my friend who has just discovered she has breast cancer

Peace: Linda - my friend’s sister who is going through a divorce

Make a specific plan for meeting each need. (I will take Jane to lunch.)

Put a time limit on it. (I will take Jane to lunch on Thursday.)

Record your experience in your journal.

More from the Girlfriends

Nope! It is not too late to join Mary’s weekly online Bible Study, Light for the Journey, for practical ways to tap into the power of God’s Word. When you join, you have access to all of the 2013 lessons. The current study is Power Up With Proverbs.

Today’s devotion was taken from Mary’s book, Hope in the Midst of Depression. And be sure to connect with Mary on Facebook or through email

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Originally published Tuesday, 26 March 2013.