That's Encouraging!

May 29, 2024 by Colleen C Orchanian

We all like to be encouraged. Maybe we need to be encouraged. Hebrews 10:25 tells us to encourage one another. Encouragement is the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.

So when do we need encouragement and how do we do it?

We need to be encouraged when we are struggling. A friend told me about a time when she was in Walmart shopping with her two little boys. They were acting up a lot and she was on the verge of tears. Another shopper, a total stranger, came up to her and said, “It’s okay. You can do this. It will get better.” She was so grateful for that encouragement. Someone noticed her struggle and reached out to lift her up. It gave her hope.

We need to be encouraged when we are suffering and in pain. We can rarely relieve the physical or emotional pain of others unless that’s our vocation, but we can be present in the pain. That is the meaning of compassion. We suffer with them. Mother Mary suffered with Jesus. Our physical presence is an encouragement without words.

We need to be encouraged when we are doubting, when our faith is weak, or we fear that we are not enough for God (or maybe that we are too much for God). One of the spiritual attacks we often experience is the accusation that we are bad at this faith thing. We don’t have enough faith or we aren’t doing enough. We can be encouraged by someone who points out the truth from Scripture. Are we any worse than the Prodigal Son, the Woman at the Well, or Saul before he was Paul? We may know that we are no different, but we need to be reminded. Encouragement gives us hope.

We need to be encouraged in our apostolate – the work we do for God. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. There are times when I finish a podcast and wonder if it's good enough - if it has value to someone. And then I get a message or a comment that confirms that I'm on the right track. It’s nice to hear that something we did was helpful. If we hear nothing, we may think we wasted our time and are tempted to give up. I need that encouragement to know if I’m on the right track with my writing – and I’m very thankful to get it.

Our pastors need to be encouraged. Tell them what you liked about their homily or sermon, and be specific. I once told a priest that I liked his homily, and he asked me, “What specifically did you like?” That was a good question – and I was able to answer it. It’s nice to hear “Great sermon!” but it’s even better to hear, “Great sermon, especially when you said… That was just what I needed to hear today.” Encouragement gives us the confidence to persevere.

We need to be encouraged when we are learning and we aren’t doing a great job yet. It’s hard learning a new job. We have a new office manager in our parish who is replacing someone who had the job for 15 years. I am sure there are days that she is overwhelmed and wonders if she will ever feel like she’s figured it out. She needs to be encouraged while she is learning.

We need to be encouraged when we are slacking off spiritually. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. I may not feel like getting involved in a project at church, but if someone encourages me, I’m more likely to do it. Sometimes we have to be reminded of what God expects of us as Christians. That is a form of encouragement.

We need to be encouraged to seek God. My son Tommy is away at college and I send him a short text every morning. That started over a year ago when I realized that I have lots of conversations with him in my head but not so many in person. I had all these positive thoughts about him and wanted him to know them. So I began sending a daily text. Many of these texts remind him that God is there, waiting for him. Sometimes I share an experience I had of God’s providence. Other times I tell him how proud I am of the man he is becoming. Every day is different, and it’s very special to me – and I hope to him.  

Romans 15:5 tells us that we have a God of endurance and encouragement. We, as his ambassadors, are called to bring His encouragement to those around us. So look for an opportunity to encourage someone. Who might that be?

  • Parents at church with fidgety children.
  • A mom in a grocery store whose child is pitching a fit.
  • Your husband or wife when you notice that they are stressed.
  • Your priest or pastor – any time.
  • Teenagers who feel like they don’t fit in.
  • Someone who is grieving and doubts the promise of eternal life.
  • A server in the restaurant who is looking a little frazzled.
  • A clerk at the grocery store who just got yelled at by a customer.

Sometimes we don’t know who needs encouragement because they hide it. So we want to encourage even those who don’t appear to need it. Some people are not facing any struggles in life – at least for the moment – but they, too, need encouragement. Every one of us likes to be acknowledged, to be complimented, to be encouraged.

Encouragement is a game changer. If I am on a downward spiral and someone shares a word of encouragement, I may be able to stop that spiral, to think more positively. That matters.

We can encourage with spoken words, by speaking into a specific situation. Or we can encourage through the written word, taking time to write a note. Years ago I owned a training company and every year I gave a bonus to the staff members based on how well the company did. Their bonus check came with a note about their contribution – what I appreciated about their work.  An employee once told me that, although she appreciated the check, it was the words I wrote that meant the most to her. When we put in writing our words of encouragement, it can have a powerful impact.

Encouragement is a spiritual work of mercy. It costs nothing but a little bit of time. Look around and see who you can encourage today. Let God encourage others through you.

Questions for prayer:

  1. When have you been encouraged and what impact did it have? Thank God for the person who encouraged you.
  2. Who do you know that needs encouragement today? How can you be God’s instrument in their life?