I was walking through the parking lot on a lunchtime walk when a handsome young man in fatigues stopped me to nervously ask for directions to the ROTC office. I pointed him in the right direction, but as I watched him walk away I thought of everything else I could have said. “You look like someone who will do well,” I could have said. Or maybe, “Good luck” or even “Thank you.”
Why is it, when words of encouragement cost me nothing, do I use them so sparingly? Our world is crying out for encouragement. For hope. And we are in a position to share that encouragement and hope right now. Today. With someone we encounter.
Every one of us is in some kind of battle. The Bible tells us that we don’t fight against flesh and blood, but against spiritual darkness. But some of us, some of our brothers and sisters, will be called to fight literally against flesh and blood, too. Whether their role is direct combat on the front lines or one of the thousands of positions that support operations, they put themselves in harm’s way to restore and maintain peace. These are the men and women of our armed forces.
I see these men and women frequently when I travel through airports. Sometimes in groups, sometimes alone. Sometimes with headphones on and eyes down.
“I never know whether I should say something, or what to say,” I confided to a friend once, whose husband served in the army.
“If they are in uniform, they are going someplace official,” she replied. “Just tell them thank you. That really means a lot.”
It is not my nature to walk across a room and strike up a conversation. There is nothing bad that can come out of a 15-second “Hi, I just wanted to say thank you for your service.” But, the thoughts that run through my head are straight out of the devil’s playbook. They probably don’t want to be interrupted. They might find it intrusive. It might be awkward. That’s just not my style – someone else can say thank you for me.
The truth is, there is no downside to sharing encouragement. God’s word tells us to exhort and encourage one another daily. Thoughts opposing the desire to share encouragement are not from God; they are from the darkness of this world which we are called to fight. So fight!
Don’t let insecurities stop your from reaching out with a word of encouragement. Fight the spiritual battle alongside our brothers and sisters who are fighting the physical battle. Recognize that we are called to encourage one another, and then do it. Ask God to give you opportunities, and prepare to stand shoulder to shoulder with Him. For we know that no battle – physical or spiritual – is won from our own might. It is God’s right hand, His arm, and the light of His face that brings the victory, for He loves us (see Psalm 44:3).
Give a word of encouragement to someone today.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.