Encouragement …

is the word of the day.  It is no secret to anyone who knows me or anyone who follows my blog that I am a follower of Jesus.  I am thankful beyond words that He saw fit to redeem me, but not everyone I come into contact with on a daily basis can claim the same truth.  That does not make them less worthy of an encouraging word.  Everyone deserves to be encouraged by the people they hold dear and if they have no one who holds them dear, then where can they possibly find the encouragement they need to face another day.  Just because someone does not believe as I do or think as I do or do as I do does not make them any less worthy in the eyes of the Lord.  If I choose, willingly, to withhold my encouragement simply because someone does not follow the path I follow, then I am no better than the worst of humanity.  In fact, because I have been given a heart of encouragement, if I withhold it, I am worse than the worst of humanity.

I have been through some very dark times in my life.  Times when death seemed like the best option for everyone.  I know what it feels like to lie, broken and defeated, at the very bottom of the pool.  If I keep that knowledge to myself, what have I gained but bad memories and haunting imaginings?  It is important to share the things that have hurt me deeply with others who are hurting.  It gives them another rung when they are on the last one on the ladder … another knot at the end of their rope.  To keep that which hurts me inside and not share it with people who are experiencing the same hurts and disappointments that I have faced is selfish and self-serving.  If what I have gone through can help even one person to find their way, then it was worth it.  Maybe, at the time, it didn’t seem like it, but like gold, I have been refined through the trials and fires of my life.  And through the refining, I have gained knowledge and clarity.  If I keep that to myself, then the dark valleys I have passed through will remain only that.  Dark valleys.  But if I share what I have learned, then the darkness I faced becomes a light of hope for someone else who is, even now, in that dark valley.

My cup, even when it seems to be empty, is always half full, and more often than not, overflowing.  I am an optimist.  I always have been.  A dreamer, some would say, who always had my head in the clouds.  I won’t deny that.  I am a dreamer.  I have big dreams, but those dreams have cost me, at times, dearly.  There is nothing wrong with having dreams and hopes, but if those dreams and hopes end within myself, then I have learned  nothing.  I would hate to think that all the tears I have cried and all the prayers I’ve prayed and all the hurt I have harbored have been for nothing.  I have something, as so many others, to offer.  It takes courage to open my heart and hurts to others.  A courage that, at one time in my life, I wasn’t certain I possessed.  But I know it now, just as I know that, as time goes on, there will be more valleys, more fires and more refining.  I’m okay with that, as I know that what I learn, someone else, if I am willing to share it, can find hope in their own darkness by knowing that I have faced that same darkness and came out in the light.  I encourage everyone to encourage someone.  There is  no limit to what we can accomplish if we but offer ourselves as an example to those who are suffering.  I can only hope that I am an encouragement.  If I am not, then I have failed at the most important task I have ever been given.  Encourage one another.  Love another.  Find the good in one another.  Our lives will be richer for it; of that, I am certain.  I know mine is, and for that, I am thankful.

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