Posted in Spirituality, Suffering, The Love of God, The Peace of God, Walking with God

The Art of Encouragement

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God’s Thoughts to Me

After the Lord has finished speaking to Job, He said to Eliphaz, the Temanite,”I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7, NLT).

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT).

For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer (2 Corinthians 1:6, NLT).

Freely You Have Received, Freely Give

Encouraging is an art, a beautuful fine art. Only the Creator of all things … the lover of our souls, can paint encouragement on the painful canvas of a broken heart … a heart bogged down with sorrow. Only He can transform the blacks, greys and browns of a desolate heart into a rainbow of colors from His palette of love.

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For far too many years I care to remember , I was wrapped in a cold, rough blanket of insecurity, imprisoned in a dungeon of unworthiness. I was desperately trying to escape this prison of darkness. Like the deer that pants for water, my heart panted for unconditional love, acceptance and encouragement (Psalm 42:1).

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But I was ignorant of our Pappa’s economy of “freely you have received, freely give” ( Matthew 10:8). It seemed to me at best like an enigma, and at worst, total foolishness.

I knew only one modus operandi … earning, earning, earning! After all, this is the way of the world. My fellow black South African countrymen have a saying that nothing is for “mahala”, meaning nothing is for free.

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For a long time encouraging and loving others was a law written on the stone tablets of my heart … a list of “thou-shalt” and “thou-shalt-not”. I had the bad habit of sticking my nose in wherever I thought I could still the hunger in my heart … there where people needed arms to hug and ears to listen and hear! I was technically a bit slow, actually, stone deaf in heading James’ good advice to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).

I reminded myself of Job’s friends. Discovering the meaning of their names, gave me a much better understanding of their harmful comfort and encouragement. “Bildad” means “the Lord has loved”, “Eliphaz” means “God his strength”, and “Elihu” means “my God is He”.

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They were deceived into believing that they could be all those beautiful blessings of our Pappa to poor Job and obviously talked much too much. I have to give them credit for their silence during the first week!!

I was not loving those I tried to comfort and encourage … I was serving my own insecurities and quest for love. I wanted to earn their admiration and God’s favor, but  I didn’t realize it at the time.

Like Job’s famous, or shall I say notorious, friends, I was under the illusion that I could be to them: the Lord-who-loves, the Lord-who-is-their strength, the Lord-who-is-He in their suffering. I had to repent and ask our Heavenly Teacher to teach me His ways, for just like Eliphaz, Bildad and Elihu, I have not spoken accurately of our Pappa!

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He gracefully brought me to a desert place … a place where illness left me unable to look after even the basic needs of my body. I was completely dependent on others. And my family still believed the most famous diagnosis of all times for my illness, “The-all-in-your-head Syndrome”. I never knew that one could have so much excruciating pain, be so exhausted and not die, and that from imagination.

But Pappa called me gently to return to Him, assuring me that He would lead me through my barren wilderness (Jeremiah 2:6) and that He would make my sins as white as snow and as wool (Isaiah1:18).

There in the wilderness He enabled me to drink deeply, freely from the Rock of all Ages. He patiently taught me that true encouragement, comfort and love cannot come from cisterns that can hold no water. No, I needed to become an empty vessel for Him to love and encourage others from the abundance of the overflow of my heart.

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Today I am grateful that He enabled me through suffering to comfort and encourage others with the comfort I have received from His Hand as I was resting in His Loving Embrace. I can give freely for I have received freely from the abundance of His love.

Much love xx

Mia

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