Life has been a little crazier and a bit tougher lately. How do you respond during times like this? During times like these it is easier to second-guess yourself more, to get down on yourself, and for some Christ followers, to question God. I’m a big believer in the sovereignty of God, that He has a plan and purpose for our lives, and that He is a redeeming God, He can redeem the most difficult situations for His glory and our blessing. He will show Himself faithful even when people who should know and act better don’t.
You expect encouragement from your family, and they have been for me in so many ways. But over the last two weeks I have seen God provide that encouragement through people who have no clue what life has been like for me lately. Encouragement at times that were completely unforeseen from people I never would have expected with words I wasn’t anticipating. Three came from people who are not Christians, at times and in places that were not church, and one from a believer. This fourth person is a man who attends my church, a quiet man who most people would walk past and not pay any attention to. A man who will never be a public speaker or the life of the party, but with a great smile, a genuine care for others, and a humble faith in Christ. God has used him before to encourage me, and it happened again when we met for breakfast as we do from time to time. I’m the guy with the masters in theology, the doctorate in counseling, the years of ministry under my belt. I’m the one who is seeking to be a friend, to be a blessing to him, and he is the one blessing me!
God will surprise you. He can and will use whatever, whenever to speak to the need of your heart. A great example that comes to mind from scripture is the book of Lamentations. As the title suggests, this is not a happy book of the Bible. It was written at a time of great distress and anguish for God’s people. Here is just a sample from chapter 1, “Look, O Lord, for I am in distress, my stomach churns, my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. In the street the sword bereaves, in the house it is like death. They heard my groaning, yet there is no one to comfort me.” As you read verse after verse like these, even if you aren’t feeling depressed, this book will depress you! And then out of the blue you come to chapter 3 and verse 21, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” In the midst of all of this despair and grief, God gives Jeremiah these words of encouragement and hope!
But God can also use you. He can use you to be that person who speaks a word of encouragement. You may not even realize how much someone may need it or how your words will impact them. Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word that is good for encouragement according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” What word will God speak through that will make a difference for someone else? Encouragement at a time for the other person that was completely unforeseen with words they weren’t anticipating at a time when they needed it most. May this be true for me, and may it be true for you!