When I was 18, having just completed my first year of college, I found myself without a place to live. My mom, the head of my single-parent household, had rented out our home to go back to school herself. Wendy, a woman in our church, generously invited me to move in with her family—an offer I eagerly accepted.
That summer sparked a relationship that has matured into a quarter-century of friendship—25 years of phone calls and cards and encouragement and tears. When my family was weighing whether to adopt a disabled child from Uganda, it was Wendy who said, “Of course you are!” when others cautioned against it. When my husband, Dana, was laid off for the second time in three years, it was Wendy and her husband, Bill, who sent me home with a ham every time I came to visit. And when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, Wendy always had tea and muffins waiting when I drove past her house to see my mom.
Often women, with our busy schedules, undervalue the impact of our lives on others. Men too. In the frenzy of family and work and errands and volunteering and taking care of our homes, it’s easy to miss the lasting influence of our words and actions.
Or as one dear friend who was struggling to understand her purpose recently confessed, “I want to know that I’m here for something more than to pour cereal every morning and breathe for the rest of the day.”
Knowing what an inspiration this woman has been to me, I put my hands on her shoulders and said, “You aren’t pouring cereal and breathing, you are pouring out grace and breathing out blessings!”
That’s the opportunity we have every day when we pray and ask God to encourage others through us. No matter what your occupation or limitations or challenges or gifts, God’s purpose for your life transcends your circumstances.
As someone who often struggles with discouragement, I know this because I have been the grateful recipient of much encouragement. Recently I wrote down the names of several men and women who have made a lasting impact on my life—the elementary school teacher who told me I had a gift as a writer, the college professor who faithfully honed that gift into a marketable skill, the friend who regularly cooked my family wonderful meals when we were overwhelmed by challenging circumstances.
Here’s what each of these encouragers had in common: they were grounded in the word of God; they noticed my need; they gave from what they had; they didn’t judge or meddle; and they welcomed me. That’s it. Rather than quoting scripture to me, they incarnated scripture.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:2.
Talk about a powerful purpose! When we are faithful to embrace and encourage others we make a lasting impact in their lives while also completing the very purpose for which God created us.
So give it a try. Who can you encourage today?