THE POWER OF RECIPROCAL ENCOURAGEMENT
Encouragement is reciprocal. If you encourage someone else, it blesses you too! And we all need encouragement- no one is exempt. If you know a buoyant, optimistic, endlessly happy person, you can be sure of one thing- they have known dark, discouraging days sometime, somewhere. It is inconsistent with Scripture and experience to assume anyone can perpetually avoid the emotionally heavy moments of real life. Charles Spurgeon, for instance, has often been crowned “the Prince of Preachers.” He may have been the greatest preacher in the English language. His Victorian age congregation in London was a mega-church when no one had ever imagined such a thing! His books and written sermons were so widely distributed he became the biggest selling author of his (or nearly any other) time. He was a faithful and favored minister but he wrestled with debilitating discouragement all of his life. His own descriptions of mood swings have led some to speculate that he suffered from a form of bipolar disorder. If not, he certainly exhibited a strange mix of unrivaled accomplishment and extended bouts of despondent depression.
During the painful days of inner chaos, Spurgeon discovered a powerful way to recover some emotional balance. He would seek out someone else to encourage! Regarding this therapeutic self help method, Spurgeon said, “I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.”
Discouragement casts a heavy shadow so each of us must learn to seek the sunshine of encouragement. Since encouragement is reciprocal, one way to get out of the oppressive darkness of personal discouragement is to shine a spotlight of encouragement on someone else. Why? Well, to put it into the trite, colloquial terms of my youth, “What goes around, comes around!” Encouragement is reciprocal.
The principal of reciprocal encouragement became more clear to me just a few years ago. When I was a University student, studying for the ministry in the 1970’s, I read a book that has blessed my life for more than 35 years. For many years, whenever I traveled, I actually took the book along because I loved it so much and re-read it constantly. I still do. The book is “The Hour That Changes the World” by Dick Eastman. I have given away hundreds, or perhaps, even thousands of copies of the book over the years.
One day, not too long ago, it occurred to me to write the author, whom I’ve never met, to tell him how much his book has encouraged my life. I wrote a simple note and sent it to his ministry address not knowing if he would even see it.
Imagine my surprise when a package full of books arrived from Dick Eastman, including a hard-back, 25th anniversary edition of The Hour That Changes the World! In fact, there were several of his books, and each one was hand signed with a different encouraging message from the author. In addition, there was a personal hand written letter from Dick Eastman , letting me know how much my previous note had encouraged him! Think about it: he encouraged me through his book about 35 years ago, my note encouraged him, and his personal and unexpected response, in return, encouraged me again! That’s how it works. Encouragement is reciprocal.
You don’t have to be discouraged to encourage. Anytime you lift another person with encouragement you will benefit too. When you encourage others you will also be encouraged. It’s reciprocal. So, I encourage you to be an encourager!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 ESV)