Hi, my friends. Today, we are going to talk about one of the most important truths when it comes to encouraging others, and I just want it to help us set the foundation for all the other conversations we’re going to have.
Are you ready? Here we go: we can’t encourage everybody.
I would love to make and send a card to every person I know who is having a hard day or going through a difficult season. I would love to be able to pick up groceries and make meals and watch kids and drive people to appointments… but I can’t. I literally can’t do it all. And you can’t either.
That’s why we have to prayerfully discern who God is inviting us to reach out to.
Today, I’m going to share with you some general principles that God has guided me to. I encourage you to listen, and then ask God to show you who He wants you to focus on when it comes to caring for those who are hurting.
First, I am actively focused on how to encourage those in my inner circle. My inner circle consists of those who are in my household or those I’m especially close to.
It’s not just a matter of encouraging them when they are having a hard day, but reaching out to spur them on and lighten their load as I am able.
I’m often with them in person, and I can see their body language or interaction with others. I can hear about their day and pick up on where they might need some support or care. And I know them well enough to figure out what kind of encouragement they might need and how it will help them.
For example, I might ask questions like, how can I uplift my husband today? What do my children need from me to feel heard and cared for? Is something bothering them that we need to talk about?
I was actually sharing about this in a Facebook Group not too long ago, and as my friend and I were talking about how we should focus our “encouragement energy” on those closest to us–those in our own households–I was hit with the realization that all too many times, I’m so focused on reaching out to others (or, let’s be honest, too focused on my own stuff) that I neglect the needs of my own family.
Have you ever been there?
I don’t know why it’s all too easy for us to look past the hurts and struggles of our husband and kids, except, perhaps, because we are in it, too. We are walking with them daily. And sometimes that means we don’t realize just how much support and encouragement they need.
But these past few weeks, I feel like I’ve gotten that messed up. The priorities have not been where they need to be. And so I refocus, take a deep breath, and start again.
So my primary focus is on encouraging those in my inner circle, in my household. Next, I encourage some people in my middle circle, those I don’t see quite as much. We might exchange some text messages or see each other on Sunday at church, or in some cases, the relationship is still developing.
So middle circle people could be those you work with, those in a Bible study that you lead or participate in, or a neighbor.
There are some from this circle that God has prompted me to reach out to and encourage. Sometimes it’s through a card or a text message. I certainly make it a point to lift them up in prayer when I know there is a need they have expressed. And if there’s something else that is being done for them–a meal train, a fundraiser–I try my best to support them through that, too.
In this case, they might not be under my direct care, but they are still in my “circle” and, together with others in their circle, we will care for them. So I am often joining with others to express encouragement and support.
Now, you probably noticed that my encouragement to those in my middle circle looks different from those in my inner circle. It’s not quite as intimate. It also isn’t an all day, every day kind of thing. But it is personal and it is making sure to reach out to them at some point during the week.
Think about those in your middle circle. Who might need some extra encouragement this week? Maybe it’s someone who is having surgery, or a family at church who is sick. Ask God to show you if there is anyone in your middle circle that needs some care and love.
Finally, one of the last questions I ask as I’m discerning whether (or even how much) to reach out and encourage someone is, Do they have anyone else there for them?
Some individuals are surrounded with loving family and friends, which is wonderful and such a blessing. And in those cases, I may not feel such a burden to go out of my way to encourage them. Because I know that others are caring for them.
But others don’t have a lot of family, or maybe their close friends are unable to help out as much as is needed. And so when I identify those people, I make it a point to reach out to them in a personal way: a handwritten note, a phone call, even a smile from across the room… these are all ways to reach out to someone and let them know you notice them and that you care.
To someone who doesn’t have anyone, it can be especially meaningful to have someone show them some care and concern. So don’t underestimate what seems like even the smallest gesture to you. It can make a big difference.
Whether I “officially” reach out to encourage others or not, I am always praying. Always.
Prayer requests or posts on social media might prompt me to intercede for some people. Or maybe God just brings them to mind, and so I lift them up to Him.
Prayer is a behind-the-scenes ministry, and so most of my friends and loved ones may not even know that I am praying for them. But, friends, prayer is the best thing I know to do when someone is hurting. It isn’t a cop-out or lame way to support; it’s going to the One who loves and asking Him to help. What could be more powerful than that?
Of course, just because I can’t encourage someone doesn’t mean that you can’t either. In fact, I’m counting on you to help.
If we all find some people to encourage, then we share the load and make sure others don’t walk through life alone, thinking that no one cares about them.
Dallas Willard said, “There is a distinctive emphasis by Jesus on loving your neighbor, your ‘near dweller,’ not upon loving ‘humanity’ or ‘everyone.’ What this means is that our duty and our virtue is to love those with whom we are in effectual contact–those we can really do something about.”
So, are you in? Will you care for your “near dwellers” and I’ll care for mine, and together, we’ll make a difference in the world around us.
Until next time…
Dallas Willard: “There is a distinctive emphasis by Jesus on loving your neighbor, your ‘near dweller,’ not upon loving ‘humanity’ or ‘everyone.’ What this means is that our duty and our virtue is to love those with whom we are in effectual contact–those we can really do something about.”