Tuesday, September 18, 2007

need encouragement?

There are times in life when all of us need a little encouragement. Maybe we have felt defeated or put down. Maybe we feel like a failure or like no one notices our life. Whatever the situation, we really do need encouragement.

What happens, often, is that we don't know what to do about it. Either we don't diagnose the fact that we need encouragement and we keep trying to trudge along, or we know we encouragement but don't know what to do next.

If we fail to diagnose our need, then usually we begin to take out our frustration on others. We begin to blame others for our poor mood or we walk around grumpy hoping that some sort of external pleasure will fix our day.

If we do recognize our need for encouragement, then often we seek it out from the wrong source. We passive-aggressively make known our need for words of affirmation. What does it look like to “passive-aggressively” make know our need? It’s when people fish for compliments by putting themselves down. Or it’s when we mope about hoping someone will ask "How are you doing" so that we can go on and on about our "hard-knock" life. Then, at the conclusion of our moping and complaining, we wait for someone to say kind words to us. We mistakenly think their words will fix our poor self-esteem or our poor mood.

But those words are fleeting. The good they do in our lives only lasts a moment. Like a few drops of water in a cup full of holes, we are still left empty and in need of encouragement.

Allow me to suggest a few alternatives to this:
1. When you are in a depressed mood or find yourself "down," begin to do some self-examination. What is at the core of these feelings and moods? If the core is something other than the need for encouragement, then go deal with that. But if it is simply a need to be encouraged then acknowledge your need. Call it out for what it is.

2. Now that you know you need encouragement, take that first to God in prayer. Simply be honest with God. Pray something like, "God, I really feel the need for encouragement. Father, would you encourage me? Would you build me up with your loving words? I need encouragement right now because my emotional tank is running low." You get the idea. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Ask God to meet your need.

3. Before you end in prayer, switch your prayer from a "request" to a "thank you." Finish your time in prayer by thanking God for all that He has been in your life. Thank Him for the grace and forgiveness He continually offers. Thank Him for all the things He has provided for you and how He has been there for you in the past. Thank Him for the blessings that He brings into your life and for the simple everyday things that would not be possible without Him.

4. Now turn to the word of God. You can either go to passages of scripture that you know are encouraging and pick through them one at a time. Or you can continue to read a book of the bible devotionally, one chapter at a time. Either way, let the word of God speak to you. Hear God encouraging you through it.

5. Prayer and scripture have a way of filling us up better than any human words could. But often, God will soon answer your prayer by prompting the people around you to build you up. You will find encouraging words coming your way because God has sent them. Not because you are moping around. Not because you fish for compliments. Not because you make sure everyone knows your life sucks. But they will come because God loves you.

And these words are more powerful than words that you try to draw out of people. They are more powerful for two reasons: 1) because you need them less. Your emotional tank has filled up considerably just from scripture and prayer. So these words function more like icing on the cake than they do the "cake" itself; 2) because you now realize God is speaking them through the person who is encouraging you. They are not empty words or vain attempts at lightening your mood. You can receive them as little love notes from your Father in Heaven.

So next time you are feeling an emptiness inside of you which longs for encouragement, try practicing these steps rather than going to people first. This is a practical way of living out the discipline of "seek first the Kingdom...and all these things will be added to you." I believe you will find yourself more fully encouraged than you have ever been.


At 3:33 PM, Blogger Alpha Monkey said...

So many people get stuck in this mentality that they need so stimulus to make them feel better. Maybe it is words from others maybe it is some thing, I don't know. What I believe is this, take a long hard look in the mirror and say to yourself, I am a child of God and I was created in His image. Do you realize what that means? The image of our creator, the Almighty God. If that is not enough to know we were made in His image, than go run up to the top of a mountain and pray, pray, pray about where you are in life. Some would say all we need in our life is Jesus or God, but they are all we have. God bless!

At 7:56 PM, Blogger Alpha Monkey said...

Hey Mark,

I was at work earlier when I made my first comment to this post. I have a more articulate way to say what I was trying to say. This morning on the way into work I was reading Gen 1. I use the NASB Life Application Bible while at work just in case I have a question pertaining to the text. The commentary that I am referring to is Gen 1:26 the text reads

"Then God said, "Let Us amke man in Our Image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over thecattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping things that creeps on the earth."

The I decided to read the commentary. It seemed to fit your post so here goes. In what ways are we made in God's image? God obviously did not create us exactly like himself because God has no physical body. Instead, we are reflections of God's glory. Some feel that our reason, creativity, speech, or self-determination is the image of God. More likely, it is our entire self that reflects the image of God. We will never be totally like God because He is our supreme Creator. But we do have the ability to reflect his Character in our love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and faithfulness. Knowing that we are made in God's image anf thus share many of His characteristics provides a solid basis for self worth. Human worth is not based on possessions, achievements, physical attractiveness, or public acclaim. Insteadit is based on being made in God's image. Because we bear God's image, we can feel positive abour ourselves. Criticizing or downgrading ourselves is criticizing what God has made and the abilities He has given us. Knowing that you are a person of worth helps you love God, know Him personally, and make a valuble contribution to those around you.

Mark, I hope this better explains what I was origionally trying to say. Give me your opinion, talk to you later.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Yeah, good thoughts.


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