“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
It’s no secret or mystery that we as humans were made for community. Even the deepest introvert needs some interaction with other people (just preferably not the exhausting extroverts). There is a part of our souls that need the connection to other people to be uplifted, encouraged, and fulfilled. We are not meant to be “lone wolves” completely fending for ourselves. We need other people to come alongside us to boost our spirits and cheer us through our triumphs and struggles.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 gives a direct charge: “encourage one another and build each other up.” That doesn’t give much allowance for the macho attitude of not needing other people. It doesn’t say “Be strong in yourself. Rely on your own sufficiency, and don’t care about the thoughts of others.” It specifically says to build each other up. It’s an outward focus that requires intentional effort to see what someone else needs.
There are some people (usually extroverts) who are natural cheerleaders. They intentionally look for ways to encourage those in their circle of friends. They tend to be tuned into the well-being of the people around them and will step forward to ask how others are doing. They will point out strengths and accomplishments to someone who is feeling down. They find discreet ways to let someone know “you can do it!” They find more joy in uplifting someone else than giving themselves a pat on the back (which should be the mindset of all of us).
Not everyone has the natural instinct/inclination to be a cheerleader. They may not be the one jumping up to give a pep talk, but they see that someone is feeling down. They may not know what to say in the moment, but they may circle back and pray for that person later. They may not send a card with flowery words of well wishes, but they may send a short text to let someone know they’re thinking of them.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds … encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” In our current pandemic era of social distancing, working from home, virtual learning and church services, we are becoming increasingly separated from one another… and the impact is showing. An article written by Erin Schumaker of ABC News (Sept 2020) stated that depression symptom rates in the United States jumped from 9% to 28% once the pandemic hit. A society of community had been shattered, and people are beginning to crumble without the support of others. The end of verse 25 reads, “…all the more as you see the Day approaching.” As culture declines, as more chaos creeps in, as society as we know becomes unraveled by sinfulness and self-centeredness, as the Day (of the Lord’s return) approaches… our efforts of encouragement should skyrocket.
The opening verse concludes like this: “…just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11). This means that we should already have a heart and attitude of encouragement toward each other! When you look around you in your various community engagements (work, local church, social outings, etc.), do you see an attitude of encouragement? When you’re in those settings, do you look for ways to build up those around you? What could you do to start developing a habit of encouragement?
It’s been said that “people tend to be for others what they secretly need for themselves.” This underlines the misconception that those who appear strong on the outside must be doing just fine on the inside. That exuberant person who lights up a room when they walk through the door may actually be struggling in their job or home life. The person who asked you out for coffee may have been the one who actually needed the outing. Not every supportive and encouraging friend may be silently needing the same in return, but receiving encouragement is a good reminder for us to pay that support forward to someone else.
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