I don’t know about you, but I really appreciate a little encouragement and affirmation. There is so much in life to get discouraged about, so it’s great to have someone in your corner, someone cheering for you. In the beginning after God had created Adam, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” At first glance, it may seem that God is providing a servant or assistant, someone who is inferior, but according to the original Hebrew that is not the case at all.
- “Suitable” is from the Hebrew word, “neged” (neh’-ghed), which means, “in front of, in sight of, opposite to.” It also means conspicuous or someone who stood out. They attracted notice and attention.
- “Helper” is from the Hebrew word “ezer”. It is the same word used of God 66 times in Scripture. This “ezer” (pronounced “ay-zer”) speaks of God’s strength, power, and protection, help, and being a rescuer.
This “suitable helper” that God is providing is something special, someone who was “able” to help, meaning that they were equal to the one they were created to help. In fact, “ezer” is used in reference to God as our helper.
“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help (“ezer”) and our shield.” Psalm 33:20 NIV
We all need help whether we want to admit it or not. Isolation and aloneness is never a good thing. Even for those of us who are introverts, we need companionship and community. It may seem strange considering what I do for a living, but I am a bit of an introvert. As much as I value my time alone, I need relationship. I need to help and to be helped.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne (English poet, scholar, soldier and secretary born into a recusant family, who later became a cleric in the Church of England)
“Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless—a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 NIV
Life is just better when it is shared with someone else, when we help each other. One of the greatest ways that we help each other is through encouragement. I’m not talking about just telling people what they want to hear because encouragement is not about feeding ego. Encouragement is the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. It is also persuasion to do or to continue something. If we are faced with something difficult or challenging, encouragement says, “you can do this” or “don’t give up”.
We also need another form of encouragement called “affirmation”. We need others to “affirm” us so that we know we are okay, important, needed, accepted, necessary, and appreciated. Without encouragement, affirmation, and support from someone or anyone, it is very difficult to function or achieve much of anything. Affirmations help us overcome self-sabotage and negative thoughts. According to Dr. Gary Chapman in his book “The Five Love Languages”, there are five primary love languages that people speak. These include words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. According to Dr. Chapman, we all have a love language that is dominant. For example, my love language is “words of affirmation”. My daughter has the same love language, so I know that she needs a regular dose of affirmation and encouragement.
Do you have an encourager in your life or someone who affirms you? We all need at least one. We all need a Barnabas. Who? What?
God has given all of us spiritual gifts; each of us has different gifts and you can have more than one. Spiritual gifts are described in the New Testament, primarily in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8 NIV
If you would like to find out what your spiritual gifts are, there are spiritual gifts tests that you can take online. One of my strongest spiritual gifts is encouragement. I’ve always enjoyed encouraging and affirming others. However, not everyone receives encouragement well. It may not be something that they are accustomed to receiving, they are “tough enough” to go it alone, or it’s not their “love language”. Whether it is our “love language” or not, we all need encouragement and support.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV
We all need to ask ourselves. In a world that is hurting and broken, what can I do to build it back up? Is there someone in my life that I can encourage and affirm today?
Hope you have a great weekend!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management