Girlfriends in God - Nov. 4, 2008

November 4, 2008 
The Circle of Encouragement 
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth 
“2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Friend To Friend 
You have heard the old saying, “What goes around, comes around.”  Truer words were never spoken when talking about encouragement.  We all need encouragement – especially during the tough times.  Those “tough” times can come in all shapes, sizes and forms and can vary from person to person.  For example, we have one child who has been known to run an extremely high fever, walk around on a broken foot, and have a headache that would put me in bed … all without a word of complaint.  The doctors have always been amazed at this child’s high level of pain tolerance.  We have another child who has been known to dissolve into hysterics at the sight of a splinter embedded in a finger and turn ghastly pale and almost faint at the mere smell of the doctor’s office.  The doctor’s have been amazed at this child’s low level of pain tolerance.  The difference between these two children does not reflect a right or wrong reaction.  As one of my friends often says, “It is what it is!” When each child was in pain, they both needed understanding, compassion and encouragement.

When I went through my first major battle with clinical depression, I was amazed at the people God sent to encourage me.  Phone calls came from friends we hadn’t seen or heard from in years.  “I don’t know what is going on in your life,” they would say, “but I have had you on my heart and just felt compelled to call.”  Notes and letters arrived in the mail – all filled with encouraging words – many from people who had no idea about my struggles.  Strangers would take one look at me and proceed to rescue me from whatever circumstance in which I was trapped and having a panic attack.  

One of the most precious groups of encouragers was the elders of our church.  With my permission, my husband, as the pastor, shared with them what I was going through and asked them to pray, which they did. These men just didn’t think prayer was enough.  These amazing angels wanted to do more by putting feet and hands to those prayers and did not stop until they came up with a rescue plan for me. 

Our church had five services each weekend and because I was so emotionally frail, I never knew which service I would be able to attend until I was on the way.  Dan would relay the message that I was coming and the elders went into action.  One would meet me at the car and escort me inside.  Another would keep an eye on me during the service in case I needed help.  Our church auditorium had three main aisles.  An elder would walk those aisles before and after the service, watching and waiting.  Many times, the elder would press a note of encouragement into my hand as he passed the offering plate.  If he sensed I was in trouble or caught in a draining conversation, he would swoop in, take me by the arm and say, “Excuse us, please.  Mary is needed elsewhere.”  I was then ushered to my car, hugged and told, “We are praying for you. We love you. Go home.”  I know.  It was amazing!  It was also a main factor in my recovery. 

The reason these special men offered me encouragement was because Dan and I made the decision to share my pain – openly and honestly.  Doing so invited them into my life.  Now that I am on the other side of that pit, I remember the love and encouragement they gave me – and I am motivated to encourage others in God’s circle of encouragement.  However, there is another very important truth here I don’t want us to miss.

There are those who suffer alone and in silence, unable to scrape up the courage to share their pain and have no advocate to sound the alarm on their behalf. I believe God will not only give us the discernment to see their pain, but will show us how to encourage and build them up.  He will show us how to help the weak and be patient with the broken lambs who cross our path … if we ask Him to do so.  The holidays may be a very difficult time for you.  Would you be willing to share your pain with others and allow God to use them in your life as a source of encouragement?  Perhaps the greatest gift you can give this year is the gift of encouragement to someone who finds it hard to share their pain openly.  Either way, the question is, are you willing?  Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of the circle of encouragement. 

Let’s Pray 
Father, I am amazed at how You love me through others.  Thank You for the gift of encouragement.  Help me to receive that gift and then to give it away to someone else in need.  I want to be Your hands and feet to those who are hurting around me.  Give me eyes to see them, Lord.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Now It’s Your Turn 

  1. If you need encouragement, think of two people with whom you can share that need and make a plan to do so. 
  2. Look for people in your life to encourage. 
  3. In your journal, record a recent time when you received and/or gave encouragement.  What were the results? 
  4. Write a note of encouragement to someone in need, letting them know you are praying for them.  Offer to take care of a specific need such as preparing a meal, dropping by the grocery store to pick up a few items or picking up their cleaning.  Many times, people in pain can’t or won’t ask for help.  If you see a need, meet it. 
  5. Write a note of thanks to someone who has encouraged you. 

More From The Girlfriends 
We really do need each other, don’t we?  God created us that way.  The holidays are often “dead zones” for encouragement.  Our heart and mind is so filled with other things that the signal is not coming through!  We get so busy that we forget the very reason for the season – Jesus Christ – the One who loves the most and calls us to love like He loves.  Don’t let the stress of the holidays rob you of the joy of giving encouragement.  You can now purchase and download my new bible study, “God’s Answer to Stress”, as a guide to managing stress and enjoying a holiday season centered on Him. 

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Matthews, NC 28106

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Originally published Tuesday, 04 November 2008.