Pastor Donna Spencer Collins
I was recently asked “what does encouragement mean?” I thought about what it is like to be encouraged. How it uplifts in positive ways; like when one is struggling to finish a task or project and someone comes along and cheers them on. I wondered why we need it? What is it like when we don’t experience it? Why do we sometimes reject encouragement? Then I thought, what does encouragement actually mean?
Encouragement: “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” I sat with this and as I looked closely at the word itself I realized the word :courage is nestled in between “En_ment”. So I looked up the word Courage: “the ability to do something that frightens one and or to find strength in the face of pain or grief.” I then looked up dis-courage which means: “to cause (someone) to lose confidence or enthusiasm.”
Another interesting thing emerged: both encouragement and discouragement are verbs. The word courage is actually a noun. I started to imagine courage as a container. That can be filled with encouragement and emptied with discouragement.
I remembered years ago, my nephew was a junior in college and I went up to visit him. Previously that week, several people had shared with me how proud they were of him and why. I shared with him the details of what the folks had said. As I spoke these encouraging words I noticed that he began to sit up straighter in his chair and leaned in to listen. I could see the encouragement filling his soul. Then I shared my thoughts that courage is like a vessel that can be filled when encouraged and be poured out when discouraged. He was astonished. Then he shared that he had missed two classes that day as he overslept. He was not happy with himself at all. He realized he had been discouraging himself all day and that is why he felt so awful and wanted to quit. He then said “what you are saying is that encouragement fortifies courage and discouragement takes it away. Right?” In that moment, I saw that he had on his own quenched his thirst for courage. This in turn washed his discouragement away, renewing his purpose and intent on staying the course.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) “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 to good works.” I am grateful for my nephew and all the ways he now encourages others. He is one of the best men I know.