By Warren Olson
Imagine this: You’re watching the very end of the Super Bowl and the score is tied. With just seconds left to play, one team snaps the ball and the quarterback barely escapes being tackled. And with all of his strength, he throws the ball to his receiver. It’s a fantastic catch! The receiver escapes one, two, three defenders and crosses the goal line just as the clock runs out to make his team the world champions.
The camera pans to the sideline of the winning team. Yet, when you’d expect to see them rushing the field and hoisting the receiver up on their shoulders, there’s only silence as they quietly walk back to the locker room.
Is there something wrong with this picture? Of course! It’s ingrained in every person to recognize, acknowledge, and celebrate victory when it happens. And in the same way, we also have the innate desire for support when times get tough. Simply put, we’re hard-wired to seek out encouragement as well as to encourage others in both the ups and downs of life.
So what does the Bible say about how you and I can encourage others in Christ? Well, of the many verses that talk about how to encourage and be encouraged, I think Romans 12:15 sums it up the best,
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
As Virginia and I look back on our lives, the best encouragement we’ve ever received in good times and bad wasn’t from people who just used nice words to support us. It was from friends who reflected the emotions we were experiencing.
In good times, it was the friends who celebrated with us. And in bad times, it was the friends who grieved with us. The bottom line is that the best kind of encouragement comes from those who simply try to understand and respond to others’ situations.
Embracing this way of encouraging can change the way you encourage others and it can help you find the encouragement you need in the ups and downs of life. So if a friend is going through a hard time, first provide a listening ear. Then, let him or her know if you’ve been through anything comparable to them. If you’ve lost a spouse or a loved one, for example, then you have a ministry to everyone who is going through a similar situation. And don’t be afraid to drop them a note in the days and weeks after the conversation and let them know you’re praying for them.
If you need encouragement yourself, seek out people who’ve been through what you’re experiencing. If something great happened—like a good medical report or financial blessing, share it with those who can rejoice with you. Or, if you need help going through a difficult time, talk with someone who’s been where you are and allow them to minister to you. It’s important to remember that whatever you’re experiencing, good or bad, finding the right kind of encouragement is a must!
Above all else, remember that encouragement isn’t just for those times when you’re down. So as you go through life, encourage others and seek out encouragement by rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. Because when you begin to empathize with others’ joy and pain, you’ll discover an endless supply of encouragement from those God has placed around you!