Photo: Ashley Brown
Author: Bailey Tiller
There is something truly remarkable about encouragement. I truly believe it is one of the most holy things we can do to others. It disarms defensive hearts and manages to build unity where the environment is toxic. Through learning to lead a ministry in college and discipling others in my walk, I quickly learned encouragement was not only one of the best tools I could use, but also a gifting the Lord was releasing in me. He’s been revealing to me how to encourage specifically in seasons of suffering/hardship and about thinking through my words before I encourage.
I’ve found that encouragement is intricately intertwined with discernment. Without this pair, our efforts to encourage can have the opposite effect. What if the words we are using to encouraging others can actually cut others down? This has been a hard revelation that I’ve been pondering over the past year.
My younger sister struggled with depression/anxiety most of her late childhood. There was one year in particular that was really bad and I remember pieces of encouragement that people would give her through her recovery. Things like “pray about it- you’ll feel better” or “The Lord is faithful, so be happy”. As I remember hearing those words, my heart grew angry. At the surface, none of these statements or encouragements were inherently bad. The Lord is always faithful and prayer is mostly definitely healing, however, there was something cheap about the words that were being spoken and I couldn’t figure out why.
For a while, I wrestled with what bothered me about this. As I continued to ask the Lord what was going on, it hit me. I realized the actual “encouragement” was unintentionally ignoring her heart. It wasn’t speaking to her as a person or validating what she was going through. The encouragements were “quick fixes”, addressing the behavior/issue, rather than the person going through it.
I felt so convicted because I know that I’ve done that to so many people. Instead of sitting with them, I have blurted out something to “make it better” without really consulting the Holy Spirit on how to best specifically encourage in that moment. The other month someone close to me was experiencing a traumatic situation and in trying to make them feel better, I said, “Well on the bright side, it could have been worse”. Even after having this realization, I still subconsciously devalued what they were experiencing.
Lately I’ve been trying to learn how to sit with people, honoring the complexity and uniqueness of their situation. When something of deep pain is brought up, it’s important that we don’t gloss over the presence of pain and hurt in an effort to smooth things over or “make it okay”. One of the most comforting blessings we can give someone who is experiencing hardship is to say “I’m sorry. I hear you, I see you, and you are not alone”. By this we are acknowledging real pain and meeting it with real love and support.
Sometimes we are called to encourage by speaking the promises and truths of the Lord, but knowing when and how is the key. Holy encouragement takes thoughtfulness, intentionality, and timing. The words we speak to others have the power to speak life where there is death and to bring courage when there is fear. Every time we go out of our way to lift someone up on the wings of encouragement we take one step closer to living on earth as it is in heaven.
Bailey Tiller is newly married recent college grad. She has a deep passion for discipleship and leadership within the church and beyond. One of her dreams is to help individuals realize the unique, heavenly gifting placed on everyone’s life. In her spare time she loves watching documentaries, thinking about how awesome dogs are, and not taking herself too seriously. She’s honored to get the opportunity to share how the Lord is transforming her heart with others.