Refresh my heart

Sally - Be Still Sad Heart

1 Corinthians 16:17–18 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Proverbs 27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ~Chinese Proverb

Encourage. Edify. Inspire. Refresh. Support. Uplift. Most human beings, whether they acknowledge it or not, are affected by various forms of encouragement. Several scientific studies have been done over the past few years that show how encouragement actually affects brain chemistry. For those who don’t give much weight to scientific studies (unless they happen to prove a personal conviction), in the very least, it’s generally agreed that discouragement is discouraging! Only a select few (and I’ve never met any) are absolutely unaffected by encouragement or discouragement.

Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

I have tried to encourage others and I have sought encouragement. I have been a babe in Christ craving encouragement and I have been a Christian of decades craving encouragement. I have been edified in my attempts to encourage and my attempts to seek encouragement and I have been rejected at my attempts to do both. I have repeatedly seen both the strong and the weak craving encouragement. One thing I know: encouragement is desperately needed by humans of all ages and stages!

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
~Leo Buscaglia

For most of my life, encouraging others did not come naturally to me. I distinctly recall telling a friend that encouragement was just not one of my talents, as if it was optional! I also distinctly recall my realization that I was not an encourager (well, at least for anyone over the age of seven) and the absolute humbling feeling that came along with that knowledge. This was followed by glimpses of much of the encouragement that I had received from loved ones and how much that meant to me, even years later! Finally, I recall my resolve to make a change! From Job’s wife to Barnabas overnight? Not quite!

Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit light a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.
~Wilfred Peterson

It took me an awfully long time to learn that encouragement isn’t always one size fits all—what encourages one may actually discourage another. In my ever-evolving efforts to purposely seek to encourage others, I learned the hard way that I could use almost the same thoughts to encourage one friend successfully, only to use them on another and fail miserably. I have seen the same Bible class both encourage and discourage Christians. I have been inspired by quotes and verses and shared them only to find that they overwhelmed others! One thing I know: when encouragement comes directly from the pages of scripture—from God’s wisdom—it ought to give us hope!

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

If you’ve read anything on my blog you probably know that I am generally a happy person – probably more cynical about some topics, working toward optimism where I fail—still, I believe that this world is a beautiful place. Amidst all the heartache and challenges, I find that cultivating joy and avoiding discontentment are keys to overcoming struggles large and small. I can usually study my way out of negative attitudes and I know where to go for wise counsel! I believe in facing troubles head on and using God’s word to overcome the challenges of this life on earth. I like to fix things when I can, I like to reach out and help others as I’m able. Just like anyone else, I need encouragement. No one is inoculated against discouragement, despair and drudgery! Hezekiah spoke encouraging words to the Levites who were already skilled in the service of the Lord!

2 Chronicles 30:22 And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the Lord, the God of their fathers.

You may feel surrounded by friends who seem like they ‘have it together’ and the thing is: sometimes they do! Here’s what you might not realize: no matter how ‘together’ they have it at times, there are times that things seem to rip at the seams! Little annoyances, daily struggles, big hurdles, constant discouragements, sporadic trials…this is all part of life! Still, when the darkness comes, the stars keep it from enveloping us—and those stars that keep the darkness away are often little breaths of encouragement generously given by a Barnabas who might not even know how keenly his words touch a wounded heart!

I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.
~Agatha Christie

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
~Max Ehrmann

It is not just the weak that need encouragement! Some of the strongest men in scripture needed to be uplifted and refreshed – physically and spiritually! Moses went straight to God when he was discouraged by the Israelites. God provided for his needs. Just like his brethren lifted his weary hands, we need to hold up one another’s weary hands. We need to help each other in our efforts not to grow weary!

Exodus 17:9–13 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Galatians 6:9–10 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

When Moses is ready to pass the baton to Joshua, he tells the Israelites twice to encourage him! He reminds them of how they discouraged him during his time as leader, of how their behavior affected him—then he tells them to encourage and strengthen their new leader! Joshua – a man of great courage, a man who stood up against a multitude – needed encouragement and strengthening!

Deuteronomy 1:34–38 And the Lord heard your words and was angered, and he swore, ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord!’ Even with me the Lord was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there. Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.

Deuteronomy 3:26–28 But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’

It was after one of Elijah’s greatest victories that he suffered his greatest discouragement. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah goes from the heights of victory for God to the depths of despair. It is then that God provides for him physically with rest and sustenance from an angel. He also provides Elisha, the prophet who would take his place. Finally, he leaves him with reassurance that he is not alone. Sometimes that is all the encouragement needed: the knowledge that others are with you, that you are not alone!

1 Kings 19:15–18 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

One of the most encouraging things to witness is when reaching out is done by weary arms. Whether naturally a Barnabas or not, it is probably true that it is easier to encourage others when one’s encouragement tank is full! How often is that the case though? More often than not, encouragement is needed whether our tank is full or nearly empty! Consider Paul and Silas who encouraged the brethren after having been beaten and thrown in jail!

Acts 16:37–40 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

The New Testament is full of admonitions to encourage! Do you struggle in your efforts to encourage others? Are you a Barnabas? Contrary to what some may think, encouragement isn’t expected of only certain personality types. While it may come more easily to some, we are all called to various forms of edification, uplifting, encouraging and refreshing. It may not be simple, but it is simply not optional! Someone around you needs encouragement and you have the power to offer words that will refresh a spirit, console a friend, uplift a weary heart, or motivate a struggling soul!

Acts 4:36–37 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 11:22–26 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

1 Thessalonians 5:11–14 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

Hebrews 10:24–25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Do you uplift the weak? Do you encourage the needy souls you meet day to day? Do you support and encourage those working in God’s kingdom? Do you hold up weary hands? Are you a Phoebe, a Priscilla, a Mary, a Persis? Is your example an encouragement to others? Do you fully understand the positive power of encouragement and the consequences of discouragement? Do you encourage the hearts of your brethren? If a heart around you needs refreshing, will you be there?

Romans 16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae,that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you. Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Ephesians 6:21–24 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Acts 15:30–32 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.

Colossians 2:1–3 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

 Photo taken by Julia Perz

Category: Musings
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