Did you know encouraging others is biblical? In addition, when you encourage others, you reap spiritual self-care benefits, too!
Feeling Far From God
“May I help you?” I checked to make sure I’d tied my purple apron and tucked in my shirt as I approached the customer browsing in the Christian bookstore where I moonlighted 15 hours a week.
“No. I’m fine,” she said with an edge to her voice.
“Let me know if you need anything,” I said with all the kindness I could muster. Why did customers come in so late? I needed to start vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom if I wanted to make it home at a decent hour. Ungraded papers, laundry, and a dozen other chores awaited me when my shift ended.
I felt distant from everything, and at times unable to cope with small worries. Worn-out and wondering what God had in mind for this season of life. God had brought us through Pedro’s catastrophic cancer journey with a miracle. But the financial burden of hospital bills, unemployment, and making ends meet left me exhausted.
Exhausted and feeling secretly resentful. If God could cure Pedro’s cancer, couldn’t he offer financial relief, too? Taking on a second job helped, but the toll of working two jobs had started showing up in small ways. I stopped wearing makeup. My exercise routine turned into nothing more than walking the short block to work each day. I spent less time each morning in prayer.
The customer lingered in front of the artwork. I searched to see if we had any coupons she might use. Maybe a coupon would help her make a decision. The store would close in 15 minutes.
An Unexpected Turn of Events
“If you’re interested in one of the paintings,” I said, holding out a coupon, “here’s a 30% off coupon you could use.”
“I’m not looking for artwork,” she snapped. She turned her back to me and swiped at her eyes. “I need a book.”
“Maybe I could help you find what you need,” I offered as gently as I could.
“My mother has cancer, and she isn’t doing well. I don’t know what I need.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, moving around to face her. “My husband recently had cancer and went through some dark times.”
She nodded her head and pulled a wad of rumpled tissue from her purse to dab her eyes. “It’s just so hard.”
“I know,” I said, putting my arm gently around her shoulders and hugging her.
She stiffened, and then relaxed and nodded.
“May I pray for you and your mom?” I asked.
She nodded again and I launched into a heartfelt prayer for the customer and her mother. As I said ‘amen,’ I head the shop door open, and another customer enter.
“Thank you,” the woman whispered as she stuffed her tissue back in her purse. “I feel so much better now.”
I gave her shoulders one last squeeze and went to help the new customer. As I finished finding the special order for him, I realized I felt better, too. I’d never hugged a stranger nor offered to pray with someone I didn’t know well before.
But in doing so, my own worries and burdens seemed to fade. God had made a way through cancer. He would make a way through this season, too.
Encouraging Others Spiritually as an Act of Spiritual Self-Care
Acts of altruism—whether we give time, objects, money, or encouragement—benefit the giver. Scientists and researchers can now prove this wisdom of the Bible from thousands of years ago (Acts 20:35). When we encourage others, we receive a blessing, too. And if we want to form a habit of spiritual self-care, we’ll want to incorporate encouraging others into our daily routines.
Paul encourages believers to behave with generosity in 2 Corinthians 9:6. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
When we make generosity and encouraging others a habit, we participate in one of the simplest acts of spiritual self-care. In looking at the Bible, I discovered four specific ways for encouraging others.
1. Encourage Leaders
“You’re doing such a good job,” one of my coworkers told me. “I’m glad you’re leading out in our outdoor school program.”
Her sweet words brought relief to my frustrated spirit. They also showed me how words of encouragement for leaders can soothe little aches and annoyances. Instead of armchair quarterbacking, we need to look for honest ways to encourage leaders around us.
We see this principle in Deuteronomy 1:38, 3:28, and 2 Samuel 11:25.
When we encourage our leaders, we take ownership in following—which in turn makes it easier for leaders to lead. If you have a bent towards leadership, don’t wear yourself out thinking you have to lead all the things. Allow others to lead, encourage them, and find rest and spiritual self-care in following sometimes.
2. Encouraging Others to Fight the Good Fight
At one point in Pedro’s cancer, when things looked especially bleak, he wanted to go home and die. I remember asking him if he could keep fighting for our girls who needed their daddy. He remembers me telling him he had to keep fighting and he couldn’t give up. No matter how it went down, he felt encouraged by my words and I felt encouraged by his commitment to fighting.
In Judges 20:22 and 2 Samuel 19:7, we see the importance of encouraging others during battle. If you see a fellow believer struggling with something, come alongside them and offer to pray with them and for them. Encourage others instead of making them the topic of your next gab-fest. Building people up offers more benefits than tearing them down.
3. Encourage Others by Coming Alongside Them
Not all encouragement involves words. Sitting and listening to someone in pain does more good than giving advice. We all desire to be heard, and your listening presence provides encouragement.
God models this in Psalm 10:17. “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry (NIV).” Other translations use the word strengthen instead of encourage. God hears, listens, and strengthens.
Psalm 34:18 gives us another example. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
We can leave the saving to God, but our compassionate, human presence provides a reminder with skin on it of a God who cares.Our compassionate, human presence provides a reminder with skin on it of a God who cares. #selfcare #encouragement Click To Tweet
4. Encourage Others by Sharing Stories of God’s Provision in Our Lives
When we share our testimonies of God’s grace, power, and goodness, we encourage others. Even better, we remind ourselves of those same things. Remember to share in the proper season, though. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you
When Paul and Silas experience a miraculous release from prison, they go to Lydia’s house and tell their story and encourage others (Acts 16:40).
Micah 6:5b reminds us to “Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.” In remembering and sharing we grow our own faith and encourage others.
The Hack for Spiritual Self-Care
The next time you feel burned out spiritually or discouraged by your faith struggles, look for ways to encourage others. Praying for a stranger helped me remember the journey God had brought us through. The act of encouraging someone else also reminded me of God’s faithfulness.
All too often I measure God’s faithfulness by my own yardstick of requirements. I forget I don’t get to dictate how he’ll help. I’m learning to encourage others when I feel weak instead of focusing on myself.
Have you ever experienced spiritual renewal by encoura