The Bible has much to say about encouragement – and shows that it is something even the strongest individuals of faith need at times (Moses, David, and Elijah, to name only three). The Scriptures also show that there is a difference between being encouraged by physical things (Proverbs 13:12, etc.) and the kind of spiritual encouragement we all need from time to time in the Christian walk (1 Thessalonians 5:11, etc.). When problems and difficulties fill our lives, spiritual encouragement can sometimes seem distant, but here are five ways to find it:
Sometimes, when we need encouragement, we may look specifically for “encouraging” verses in our study of the Bible. There is certainly nothing wrong with that – there are many such verses – but it’s good to remember that we can often find encouragement where we don’t expect it, simply in studying almost any part of the word of God. King David wrote of the Scriptures: “they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10), and the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight …” (Jeremiah 15:16). Obviously, these men of faith were positively affected by the word of God, and we too can find encouragement in the words of the writers of the Bible who endured many problems and sometimes great suffering, yet who penned wonderfully positive things alongside the records of their troubles. That is why the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
The truth is, the Bible discusses good and bad in equal measure. It doesn’t offer sugar-coated self-help pick-me-ups, but it does balance the things it has to say about the negative aspects of life with hundreds of examples and words of encouragement.
When we need encouragement, we can ask God for that kind of spiritual help just like any other (John 14:13, Philippians 4:19, etc.). But prayer can result in encouragement in more ways than simply asking for this gift. Often, we may find that our spirits are buoyed up just as much when we are praying for the needs of other people as when we pray for our own. That is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (Philippians 1:4) – not that Paul had to work up happiness in order to pray for the Philippian Christians, but that praying for them resulted in his encouragement and joy!
Additionally, when we sincerely give thanks in prayer for what we and others have been given,we often experience great encouragement. In fact, in the scripture we just read in which Paul speaks of praying with joy, the context is in fact one of giving thanks. As Paul wrote, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3). It was this thankfulness that was primarily encouraging the apostle and bringing him joy.
Meeting with others of like mind and sharing our problems with them as well as helping them with their own can be one of the most encouraging aspects of the Christian life. That is exactly what the author of the book of Hebrews had in mind in saying that we should not be “giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). We should note that in this verse encouragement is clearly shown as a purpose as well as a result of meeting together. The need for this kind of encouraging fellowship is also stressed by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonian Christians: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Here again, the encouragement is of an ongoing nature – “encourage one another … just as…you are doing.” Meeting with other Christians is one of the most effective paths to encouragement that we can find.
Times when we feel we need encouragement may be the last times we feel like singing – though perhaps that is exactly what we should be doing. There are certainly many instances where the Bible links singing with needed encouragement. For example, in the midst of trouble, King David wrote: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7-8), and the prophet Isaiah wrote: “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted” (Isaiah 49:13). Although these instances may not seem to talk about the troubled person singing, Hebrew poetry utilizes this technique of reflecting our emotions onto our surroundings. The prophet Zephaniah even ties encouraging words to God singing over his people in difficult circumstances: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
In the New Testament we find the same principle expressed a little more directly – as when Paul and Silas sang in loud voices when they were beaten and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-26). Apparently their singing was encouraging not only to them, but also to those around them (vs. 25)! Paul tells us, in fact, that we should continually “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19), and modern psychology has confirmed that singing can lift a person’s spirits even when suffering severe problems. Service
Although it may seem counter-intuitive that helping others in their problems can often encourage us, that is exactly the way life works. Notice the words of the apostle Paul in this regard: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). When Paul quotes the words of Jesus that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive,’ we should remember that service is giving of ourselves in the fullest way possible and that the word “blessed” in the New Testament means both “blessed” and “happy.”
Doubtless that is why those who devote time and energy to helping others often find that the experience is both personally rewarding and also encouraging. Naturally, our motivation for helping others with their needs should not be purely for our own encouragement; but when we throw ourselves into the service of others, we do so often find the encouragement we ourselves need. Perhaps that is what Hebrews 6:10 means in saying: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
Still need encouragement? If you have not already read our free e-book on encouragement, Some Days We Soar, be sure to download the new revised and expanded edition. Like all our e-books it is available in different versions to read on any computer, e-book reader, or smart phone with e-reader program. Not only is the book free, but it is also free from advertising and requires no email address or registration to download – simply click on the download link here.