The discipline to encourage.
Do challenging times bring out the best or worst in people? Good question. And, like most questions it depends on who you ask. There's usually some agreement in a merger of thought that hard times usually reveal a person's true colors. That's because our impression of or on others is so often blanched when heated by the fires of genuine hardship. Endurance may be one of those revealing hot flashes, when extended fear or pain, or uncertainty ignite good intentions and reduce mild-mannered nods into hot grimaces of disdain. I mean, we all have our limits. Hard times usually stretch them and may expunge them even in the strongest of us. Unless...
So, yes, let's learn the disciplines to stay, wait, and continue, all slightly egocentric in their influence. Their after-effects usually touch the people around us and may give them some moral boost for staying on-point during crisis. For the most part, however, they are disciplines to keep me on point, to develop endurance in numero uno. The question now may be, where is an altruistic touch, a selfless discipline with others in the first concentric circle beyond me. In my heart, mind, and experience it is in the discipline to encourage. That is, to find ways in this isolation and quarantine period to encourage the people around me. By every means, when I learn to stay, wait, and continue there's an influence element, a witness if you will, to the people in my life. But, the discipline to encourage, while we are lifted by it, is basically meant for others. IN BOLD PRINT.
Encouragement is an often repeated spiritual discipline in Scripture. First century Christians were expected to support one another with kind and gracious words. They were living in a period known as the PAX Romana, the peace of Rome, when Roman rule had already been achieved. Yet, the local communities and villages across the empire were subjected to cruelty, religious persecution, and the whims of military leaders. The Apostle Paul, who planted and served churches in each region, always advised them to encourage each other as a means of enduring their harsh experiences---
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—
that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and
Romans 1: 11-12, ESV
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with
one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.
Romans 15: 5, ESV
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4: 18, ESV
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5: 11, ESV
The anonymous author of the Epistle to the Hebrews offered counsel about the discipline to encourage---
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.
Hebrews 10: 14-15
The Apostle Paul also sent several of his most trusted colleagues to encourage believers in that world---
I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that
he may encourage your hearts.
Ephesians 6: 22, ESV Colossians 4: 8, ESV
Beyond encouragement within the community of faith, Paul wrote about using words of grace with everyone---
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building
up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4: 29, ESV
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you
ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4: 6, ESV
We can learn endurance when we practice the disciplines to stay, wait, and continue. We can multiply endurance by learning the discipline of encouragement. So, get on that telephone, send that email or text message, post some encouraging words and thoughts on FaceBook or Twitter. You may encourage someone you love to endure these uncertain times.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your
God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31: 6, ESV