Discover Encouragement and Determine Reality

sticky-notes-1159958Discussing Discouragement

Lack of progress. Politics. Stupidity. Illness. Aging. Unemployment. Failure.

These things continuously discourage me. If I dwell on them too often and too deeply, I become depressed. Before I reach that point, though, I try to focus on what Scripture says about encouragement.

My visits usually begin here:

“Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9)

If we focus on remembering God’s activity in our lives, on what His Word tells us and on His promises, we too receive encouragement from the Lord just as Joshua did.

Discovering Encouragement

sticky-notes-1159969God gives us encouragement in countless ways. We choose to be a part of it simply when we accept it.

Encouragement from God comes through…

  1. Prayer, scripture and progress. (Psalm 138:3, Romans 15:4 & Philippians 1:6) Prayer gives us strength to live as God desires and refocuses us on the encouragement He offers. God’s word offers encouragement through stories, guidance and hope. And the progress He works in us keeps us motivated for continual growth.
  2. Remembering. (Joshua 24:16-17Do you regularly remember what God has done in your life? Scripture certainly sets that as a necessary pattern for the lives of men. Through it, we see that God never changes, and that certainly is encouraging.
  3. Reflection in our eternal hope and our position in Christ. (1 Peter 1:6 & Philippians 2:1-2Think about what the Bible says God has in store for us. Exciting and encouraging, right? Plus, belonging to Christ encourages in a profound way as we regularly experience God’s grace and mercy.
  4. Through visible faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:7)
    How often does seeing another person’s faith in action encourage you? The reverse is also true. Look around!
  5. Through other Christians. (1 Thessalonians 4:18, Romans 1:11-12,
    1 Thessalonians 5:11, Acts 14:21-22 & Hebrews 10:24-25
    We can help each other refocus on eternity. We can gather regularly encourage one another through faith. Encouragement also comes as we strengthen and motivate one another.

When you are encouraged in these ways, doesn’t it feel like anything is possible? That’s kind of the point, actually.

Determining Reality

sticky-notes-1159963When I seek encouragement because I feel sorry for myself, I’m always disappointed. Doing so just focuses me more on my own discouragement and cultivates depression.

When I let God encourage me, I’m never disappointed. When I purpose to encourage others, I’m also always encouraged.

Focus determines reality, after all. When I seek out encouragement, I focus on myself. When I let God encourage me and when I look to encourage others, I focus outside of myself. One results in regular discouragement, the other growing encouragement.

Wondering where to start? Not sure how to specifically live this out?

Begin with what encourages you. Do that to encourage someone else. Sure, everyone is different, but we’re a lot alike too. Plus, as the old adage goes, it’s the thought that counts.

The Importance of Connection

connect1Who are the most important people in your life? Do you spend regular time and quality time with them? How do you make sure you stay connected to them?

When we are disconnected, we have less patience with one another. The less quality time we spend together, the more we get into the habit of living separate lives instead of living life together. Not a great feeling. Sort of lonely.

Connection takes deliberateness. It takes compromise and sacrifice. And, it also takes creativity.

By no means do I have this connection thing figured out. In fact, I write this post in hopes of finding ways to better connect. With that being said, consider the following ideas for connecting.

Books – My fiction reading revolves around what my 14-year-old reads. Basically, I read whatever he recommends. We talk about the books, watch and talk about associated movies, discuss actors/actresses good for playing certain characters, and look forward to new books coming out. I am willing to let my son choose my books indefinitely, even for the rest of my life. What if no matter where either of us goes, we connect through the books we read? Yeah, I would be okay with never choosing another fiction book to read.

Food – My youngest loves food. He’ll try just about anything. He also enjoys cooking. So we choose recipes and make meals together. I’m not a great cook, but he loves helping me. I’m not also very good at asking for help or accepting it when it’s offered, and that needs to change.

Coffee – I truly enjoy good coffee, and I love having coffee with my husband. We have it Saturday mornings together when possible and every day when on vacation. We even have coffee “together” when we’re apart. And usually, not always when we’re apart, we talk while we drink coffee. We need this to exist no matter what else is going on in our lives.

Mom – My mom & I text regularly, and she’s faithful about stopping by each week to say “hi.” We take a yearly weekend trip together in lieu of birthday, Christmas & Mother’s Day gifts. We sometimes exercise together, and we try to schedule family game nights often. Connecting with mom has always existed for me, and I need it to always be there.

Friends – Exercising together. Coffee together. Going to each other’s kids’ sporting events. Grocery shopping together. Finding ways to connect in the everyday events of life. A connecting text or email helps when face-to-face can’t happen. Online friendships involve commenting on blogs regularly and sometimes sending personal emails. And, even for those of us who don’t care for it, sometimes talking on the phone needs to happen to make sure friends stay connected. connect6

Why is connection so important? Scripture tells us to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and to stir one another up (Hebrews 10:24). It says we need each other to make us better (Proverbs 27:17). God’s presence becomes amplified when we’re with other believers (Matthew 18:20). We are also to have unity and brotherly love (1 Peter 3:8). None of this happens consistently and with much effectiveness without regular connection.

To better understand the importance of connection in your life, consider how you feel when you lack connection. Even though I’m an introvert and a loner, I need regular connection for encouragement, motivation, improvement, more of God’s presence, enjoyment of the blessings of unity and, most importantly, to truly give and receive love.

Sure, I can motivate and improve myself. Sure, I can experience God’s presence on my own. I can also say I love others easily. Yet, none of this quite measures up to the experience of connecting with others. Nothing can replace connecting. In fact, connecting with others amplifies my life in a way that isn’t otherwise possible. Without connecting, I am truly limited in virtually every area of life.

DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts about the who, what, when, where & why of connecting?