Letter of Encouragement
Written by: Elly Gilbert
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I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because
of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
- Ephesians 3:13 NIV
Imagine receiving a letter from a friend who is serving time in prison, unjustly suffering because of his or her love for Jesus. What would you expect the contents of that letter to be? Would it be a sad account of how difficult prison life was? Or would it be a cheery note full of hope? It probably depends on your friend’s personality. Is he/she an optimist or a pessimist? An encourager or a downer?
If you were one of Paul’s friends at the church in Ephesus, you would quickly find that the letter from your old pal Paul, despite his circumstances, was full of good news, encouragement, and hope, and you probably wouldn’t be surprised. They knew him to be an energetic, zealous Christ-follower who lived to serve Christ and grow the church. His purpose was to encourage others to follow Jesus, too.
While I can’t compare my journey, suffering, or zeal to Paul’s, I do strive to follow his example of being an uplifter of others. I take so much joy in encouraging those around me. When a friend is struggling, I send a note, card, or text message. I pray for my friends and the people they care for. I share encouraging Scriptures with my network of friends, and I try to help them in whatever way I can. I receive a blessing when I can encourage someone else.
It is important to remember that encouragement is an act of both giving and receiving, and that is what Paul is telling the Ephesians in this passage. I will confess that I struggle with receiving encouragement. It isn’t that I am not grateful for it or don’t need encouragement as much as the next girl; in fact, sometimes, I crave that kind of nurturing from others. However, when it is offered, I have a tough time receiving it! I suspect that I am not alone. Often, when others ask how we are, we tend to say that we are fine, even when we aren’t. Maybe we don’t want to bother someone else with our problems, or perhaps we don’t want to appear weak. Despite that, we often have to humble ourselves to receive the encouragement others have to offer.
As you go along your way this week, I challenge you to allow yourself opportunities to be Paul, the encourager, and the church at Ephesus, the encouraged. Open yourself up to the possibility that God is using your sufferings and struggles to help others. Notice who in your life seems to be struggling, and consider how God might be using them to show you something new.
1. Have you ever been blessed by helping someone else through their struggle?
2. How have others been uplifted through your struggles?
3. Do you struggle with accepting encouragement from others? Consider how you might be more open to encouragement.
Father, thank You for allowing me to encourage others, even in my own struggles. Help me to keep my focus squarely on You and Your purpose for me so that I may live a life that glorifies You in all circumstances.