It is a different season we find ourselves in as we experience this time of quarantine with physical distancing and altered schedules. Things in our everyday lives have changed significantly. Living rooms have become classrooms, grocery aisles have one way signs and our calendars that once were set in stone have made room for uncertain change.
In the final months of 2019 I had planned a baby shower for my daughter set for spring of this year. With a recent move away from our family, the shower was planned ‘back home’ so airline tickets were scheduled and purchased, the venue was reserved, the cake design from Pinterest was sent to the baker and a friend who coordinates weddings was planning a room full of over the top boho baby décor. I was so excited for my daughter to feel the love as she was showered with hugs and gifts, but as I watched the news and heard the reports, it became clear that the event would not be happening as planned. Tickets were refunded, the venue was cancelled, the baker was alerted, the décor returned.
To be perfectly honest, I found myself a little discouraged.
I am not the only one who has had encountered a challenge with an event in this season. Weddings, graduations, milestone birthdays, family vacations and even funerals across the globe have been altered, rescheduled, canceled.
It is easy to become discouraged as these monumental moments in our lives are not going as planned, but what we find in this time is that things that could be discouraging are actually producing something quite encouraging.
Birthday parties have become drive by parades. Weddings have become online events with guests from all over the globe. Graduates have been celebrated in videos and with street signs alerting passersby that a graduate is in the house. My daughter’s baby shower was a special time of opening gifts sent through the mail with grandmothers and aunts on Zoom while eating homemade cake in the comfort of our own home!
People are smiling, laughing, connecting, communicating more than ever as we intentionally change it up. We are finding ways to encourage one another!
Encourage is a word that I have taken too lightly, until now. I often think of encouragement as simply saying something to make someone feel better in the middle of tough circumstances, to speak to a place that is sad and bring a little joy, but that is only part of the story. It may be the former elementary English teacher coming out in me, but breaking the word down into parts shows us the rest.
Encourage is rooted in the word courage.
A good definition of courage is the determination, the hope, the confidence in our ability to do something, especially something that frightens us.
The prefix en- is defined to put deep within.
Put them together and the word encourage means ‘to put deep within someone the determination, the hope and the confidence in his or her ability to do something that frightens him or her.’
When we encourage someone, we are literally putting deep within that person the confidence to do what he or she was called to do. It’s not just making someone feel better. It is planting a deep truth in someone’s soul so that even when afraid, there is the ability to press on.
Discourage is also rooted in the word courage, but what a different definition it has.
The prefix dis- is defined as a reversing force.
Put it together with the definition of courage and discourage means to reverse one’s determination, hope and confidence in one’s ability to do what one is called to do.
Things that discourage us literally take away and are contrary to the confidence that we can do what we are called to do in the time that we are living. It’s not just feeling bad or sad, discouragement removes what was put in us that is needed to thrive in a challenging time.
Joshua found himself in a challenging time in Joshua chapter 5 standing before his first battle in the Promised Land. Jericho lay before him and God had directed him to lead the people to that place in order to take the land.
The night before the battle, Joshua took a walk, alone. As he neared Jericho, the strong city that loomed in the distance, I wonder if his heart sank a little lower, if perhaps he wondered, ‘what if? or ‘why me?’ Perhaps he was feeling alone, a little discouraged. From the number of times we hear God speak to Joshua ‘do not be discouraged’ we can surmise that discouragement was a weapon waiting to take him down.
It was at that moment as Joshua faced his challenge that the Angel of the Lord, Christ Himself, appeared. The angel stood with him and spoke words to encourage. Christ’s words breathed life into the warrior’s soul as He reminded Joshua of His sovereign control over the circumstances surrounding him. The battle and the outcome belonged to Him. Encountering Christ and hearing His words put within Joshua the determination, the hope and the confidence in his ability to do what he needed to do, even something as frightening and unknown as the battle ahead.
Christ’s presence and His words encouraged the warrior.
They continue to encourage warriors today.
We live in uncertain times, but we serve a God who is certainly in control. Calendars and dates have changed, but He determines our steps. As we stand before the challenges ahead, it is easy to feel alone and wonder how in the world we will make it through.
But it is in that quiet, often lonely, moment that He shows up speaking words to remind us that He continues to be sovereign over all. Every battle and every outcome still belong to Him. Because He is with us He speaks words that put within us the determination, the hope and the confidence in our ability to do what He has called us to do.
Christ’s presence and His Word encourage us, just as they encouraged Joshua so many years ago, just as they will in our battles yet to come.
Are you in need of encouragement today? Be reminded of His presence with you. Call out to Him and listen as you open up the pages of His Word. Notice how many men and women in the Bible knew He was with them and add yourself to the list. Then listen to His Word. He is speaking to you through the words of Scripture, words of hope, determination and courage.
Don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged. He is with you. Be en-couraged today.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9