I heard a simple but very profound story recently. A little girl came home from school beaming. Her Mum asked “Did you get a part in the school play?” “Yes” she said, “I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer!” Some genius teacher, obviously anointed with the gift of encouragement, had helped a child discover the joy of encouraging others early in her young life.
We’ve all experienced times when we’ve felt unappreciated. When it seems like you give and give yet nobody notices. What you do seems not to matter to anybody. But then God sends someone along with an encouraging word and it’s like water to a parched throat in the desert.
Have you ever noticed how people’s faces light up when you look them in the eye and cheer them on? Have you ever pondered what it costs to encourage someone? Nothing! Yet in an age when we’re more ‘connected’ than ever through social media, many are feeling lonelier, more isolated, unloved and unappreciated. Is it possible that using social media is causing our real-life relationships to suffer?
A while ago I had to admit I was guilty of neglecting my closest relationships. I’d fallen into the ‘black hole’ of my laptop and phone. I’d started to forget the immense value of personal contact.
Oh how easy it is to get suckered into thinking that clicking ‘like’ on a friend’s Facebook post or photo is equivalent to giving them personal encouragement! How subtle is this trap of satan to ‘isolate’ us in front of phone or computer screens, gathering our list of on-line ‘friends,’ while real-life friends and even family are relegated further into the ‘background’ of our lives.
Technology is a gift, but it can also be a crutch. It can make us lazy in our relationships and instil a false sense of having more real friends than we do. Just because someone takes two seconds to “like” our latest post doesn’t mean they’d take off an entire afternoon to help us in a crisis. Having a thousand on-line followers doesn’t equal a thousand trustworthy friends.
In Hebrews 10:24-25, Paul reminds us to intentionally gather together: “…let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together… but encouraging one another…”
Life’s best connections happen in person. God created us to live in community, and while digital communities can certainly enrich our lives, they can’t replace the joy of eye contact, laughter, tears and hugs, or the love and encouragement of a live human friend.
So, how about you, dear friend? Are you developing your skills as an encourager? If the spoken word doesn’t come easily to you, why not start by writing someone a simple old-fashioned note of encouragement?
Dear Lord, I’m so thankful for the relationships you’ve placed in my life. Would you help me discern what encouraging words my sister needs to hear today? I want to show her your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.