One of my best friends had a miracle baby last month. I haven’t been able to hug my friend or hold her tiny bundle of joy. I haven’t been able to sit on her couch, linger over a cup of tea, and hear how she is really doing while our boys shoot backyard hoops. I dropped off a meal and stood six feet back on her front walkway as we chatted for a few moments. I peered across the gap that felt like miles into my friend’s tired eyes and shouted through the muffling of my mask what a beautiful and amazing mama she is.
Oh, how I long to encourage her.
My sister is about to turn forty. I pictured driving four hours north to surprise her. I’d take her out for boba and pedicures, then we’d head to the movies to watch something on the big screen with an ample supply of Red Vines. But nail salons and movie theatres are closed, and my sister is cautiously keeping her distance to protect her family.
Oh, how I long to celebrate her.
Another friend is struggling in her marriage.
Another friend is heavy with grief over racial injustice.
Another friend just got a promotion while someone else was laid off.
Another friend is drowning in homeschool.
Another friend just got a horrible prognosis.
And more than anything I just long to be there for each of them — to drive to the other side of town or travel across the miles, to show up on each doorstep with their favorite coffee, a box of tissues, and a fiercely warm hug.
In Romans 12:15 Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”
I’ll be honest, friends. It’s hard right now to fulfill these instructions the way my heart longs to. In my state and county, COVID numbers are still soaring and restrictions are high. The flexibility I used to have during school hours is now different as I shepherd my three boys through distance learning. And though I’m thirty-eight-years-old, sometimes I just want to stomp my feet and whine about it in my very own grown-up tantrum because I can’t comfort, connect with, and encourage my friends and loved ones the way I want to. (Mature, I know. Please don’t tell my kids.)
But then I remember a few more of Paul’s wise words. How he said “let us not get tired of doing good” (Galatians 6:9) and “everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
The truth I have to remember is that encouraging others isn’t about me. It’s not about how I prefer to engage, build up, come alongside, and cheer on. Encouragement is about the receiver. What do they need? How does God want to use me to partner with Him in helping meet that need?
Maybe like me you’ve been feeling a bit stuck in your own longing and frustration and “if only I could love and encourage someone in this particular way” pining. Well, today’s the perfect day to cast off the shackles of “I wish things weren’t like this” and lean into a new way of building up a friend, neighbor, sister, or even a stranger.
Today is National Day of Encouragement, and if ever there was a year people in our lives needed encouragement, 2020 has got to be it!
Instead of thinking of all the ways I can’t encourage others right now, I’m celebrating the ways I can:
- Send a text with a favorite verse.
- Pray with someone over the phone.
- Drop off a meal or bag of groceries.
- Look someone in the eyes instead of just passing by.
- Say thank you and compliment the grocery store clerk, drive-thru worker, or the person who lives in your home.
And perhaps my favorite way to hug a friend when I can’t physically wrap my arms around them is to send a snail-mail card. Words of affirmation scrawled in your very own handwriting — even if it’s messy like mine — is a gift of encouragement sure to touch someone’s heart in times of both joy and sorrow.
A card says, I thought of you. A card says, You matter to me. A card says, You are loved and valuable and not forgotten.
Join me today on National Day of Encouragement and send a card (or two or ten) to someone who needs to know they are seen — by you and by God. (I especially love The Struggle Bus card line from DaySpring.)
Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up.
Proverbs 12:25 (MSG)
Let’s be women who love well, encourage freely, and pick others up with our words.