Life has seasons which include times of difficulty and isolation, but these times can serve to stretch us in a positive way and not crush us with discouragement when we make the most of them. I am sure you can come up with a list of your own, but here are the ways I find encouragement time and time again, like warm slippers and a mug of hot chocolate on a cold, wintry day.
This is usually the quickest, sure fix when I am in a quagmire. Once when I was growing up we invited an atheist over for our Thanksgiving celebration (an American holiday). We had a family tradition of going around the table for everyone to say what they were thankful for over the past year. Our guest said she had nothing to be thankful for. She not only lacked a “for what”, but a “to whom”. It was sad because her life was consumed with bitterness.
2) Don’t dwell on the past
Learn from it, but don’t live there. Albert Schweitzer said “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.” Today requires our attention; tomorrow our planning and foresight. Which season is the best in your life? The one you are in, or at least it can be. God does not waste a life fully surrendered to him in love.
3) Find encouraging people
I don’t like to be around people who have the “spirit of rebuke,” meaning that they feel it is their duty to constantly correct others. You probably don’t either. Everyone is in the battle of their lives, so they need encouragement. Everyone needs at least someone who is their biggest fan and who has a heart to stand with them even when they need to be challenged or corrected.
4) Find encouraging places
I already have a favorite region in the city where we moved to recently. It is “Podol” in Kiev. When I walk up St. Andrews Descent where artists sell their works in the cool, autumn air and look out over the river, the trees covered in colorful fall leaves and the beautiful, ancient architecture, I feel so refreshed.
5) Rehearse truth
Feelings are transient; truth is not. Truth encourages because it has the power to lift us above our circumstances and transform us. For example, Martin Luther was profoundly liberated by the truth that we are saved by grace on the basis of faith, delivering him from the dungeon of trying to earn his salvation through meaningless religious practices that had no power to change him on the inside. Also, the truth that God is simultaneously perfect in love and perfect in justice is greatly encouraging. Then there are the truths about our lives personally, such as knowing our unique value, purpose and potential in the areas of our talents. And the list goes on.
Six more ways soon to come . . .
Next post: How to Encourage Yourself 101 (Part 2)