Each one helps the other,
saying to one another, “Take courage!”
— ISAIAH 41:6 (NRSV)
When I’m feeling flat and discouraged it’s wonderful how often God delivers a pick-me-up to the tune of words like this from a New York pastor Facebook friend: “Your posts always speak to my heart... to a past or current situation and to dreams and desires of future.”
The gift of encouragement may not be everybody’s calling, but we are all honoured to encourage one another; it’s how we love each other.
The reason we need to be encouraged is obvious. We all have flat spots in our faith journeys, tumults to deal with, testing times, as well as times of despairing. Our world has shrivelled up, we have lost perspective, and normally small issues get the better of us. In such a state we are no good for ourselves, let alone to others. For me, personally, I know this is a time to retreat; to escape the hurly-burly of life, if at all possible, even for an hour or two.
Times like this we need to take courage.
The point is everybody gets discouraged. No matter who we are, we all have points of potential discouragement. The key, then, is to find that thing or things that will help restore us in the courage to go on, for encouragement really is simply the fuel to go on.
Being encouraged is one of those things that happens always unexpectedly. And we are encouraged most of all when we need it, because, quite frankly, when we are feeling hopeful we don’t really need encouragement and, therefore, what would be encouraging is really a confirmation to keep going; we hear it not as encouragement – for the need to be encouraged – but as an affirmation, nonetheless necessary.
Climbing up off the canvas – having been dealt a flurry of blows – as we reel in shock for what has hit us – is the thing we need to do in staying in the match that is the context of our lives. Sometimes, though we are groggy, we see ourselves standing and standing is enough to match up with our opponent: this brutish life.
Once we are there – standing again, having been encouraged – we do the best we can with a new paradigm.
Encouragement is what we get when we take courage, and it’s what we give when we inspire others to take courage. Taking courage buoys faith and generates hope. Taking courage is the key to hope in an otherwise horrendous life. Ultimately, our strength for taking courage comes from God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.