by Justyn Goh
Recently, I watched one of C.S Lewis’ cinematic creations of the Chronicles of Narnia. After watching the movie, it left me with a deep and penetrating ‘good’ feeling. I was intrigued by the stirring within me and felt greatly encouraged. Witnessing the countless number of trials the Narnians faced against the evil forces and temptations, reminded me of my own trials and how I face them daily. Often, my own fears left me demoralized and defeated even before the battle begins.
However in the movie, there was always a brave soul who sees the light in the darkness and remains hopeful. On certain occasions, it even prompted Aslan (the parallel to Jesus in the movie), to bravely proclaim who the people truly were and reminded them who and what they were fighting for. Through those rallies, it ignited a fire in their hearts and gave them a sense of hope, empowering them to accomplish what they previously thought they were unable to.
After watching these scenes, I felt vastly empowered and wondered: What exactly is happening within me? What are these changes brought up in my heart? I soon realised my innate desire for hope and to receive genuine encouragement, and that Jesus Christ desires to grant them to me as I continue to face the mountains I climb in my life.
What Does It Mean to “Encourage”?
En-courage. The prefix “en-” means to make or put in; coupled with the word “courage”, it literally means to put courage inside another. This is more than just saying a few nice words to another, or to “sugar-coat” our words to display ‘optimism’. It is a supernatural divine gift from the encourager, to impart the grace of God to another, of hope and courage.
Encouragement has the ability to transform people and their circumstances, allowing others to break free from their crippledness by fear and open their eyes from their blindness by despair. With the aid of this supernatural gift, He has sent us to “proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” (Luke 4:18) What an amazing gift and responsibility God has given us!
This gift of encouragement communicates a hope that anchors ultimately on God. More than anything or anyone else, it gives a deep and lasting hope to others and is one that is neither fleeting nor short-lived. Jesus throughout his ministry, performed many miraculous healings. Encouragement is also a type of healing. It is a powerful healing for the heart and the soul, and is one that will last longer than our perishable bodies that will eventually pass one day.
“This gift of encouragement communicates a hope that anchors ultimately on God. More than anything or anyone else, it gives a deep and lasting hope to others and is one that is neither fleeting nor short-lived.”
Hope that ultimately is in Christ.
Real hope does not come from things, but rather from a person – from being in a deep living relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ! To be able to share Christ, we must first come to know Christ. To be able to share hope and courage, we must first be encouraged with the same hope. Hence in being an encourager, we must first understand the importance of our personal relationship with Jesus, the source of our hope.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)
To be filled with this hope requires a deeply personal relationship with God, to come to encounter Him constantly and to bask in His infinite mercy and love for us. This includes our daily prayers and scripture, our presence at mass and adoration, and our return to the Father in the confessional booth. It is through these that we can better understand the depth of love that God has for us, and understand His desire to grant this to everyone (even those who we find the toughest to love!). This transforms us to be effective encouragers of hope, which is the living hope that is in Jesus Christ!
“If you were to know how much I love the soul, you would never know aught further, for you would either die or continue to live by a miracle” – Jesus to St. Catherine of Genoa
Jesus Has Sent Us to Courageously Empower One Another
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Wherever Jesus went to heal, to minister, to bring the Good News, he moved from where he was to the person that needed to be ministered. He listened and courageously proclaimed the truths that the people needed to hear. God gives us, as encouragers, the ability to notice when people are weighed down by a burden they are carrying. We are then called to speak truths to them with love, in a way that gives life and strength, and guides them in their faith and walk with the Lord.
I am often reminded of the many people in my life that Jesus has sent to bring the paralytic (me), to hear and to encounter him once again. How blessed I am to have friends who dare to speak and proclaim faith into my life! We can never underestimate what God can do with our ‘yes’! Every opportunity is an encounter with the Lord, a renewed chance of hope and salvation!
It is thus on our part to respond, to move out of our comfort zones, and to reach out to our brothers or sisters that God has sent along onto our paths. There is a certain boldness required to seize the chance and speak up, and sometimes this can also lead to vulnerability that might expose us to hurts. It is the same risk God takes with each of us every single day, by believing in His purpose for us, even if we do not always live up to the expectations. Hence it is for us too, to believe in others when they fail to see hope for themselves.
“God gives us, as encouragers, the ability to notice when people are weighed down by a burden they are carrying. We are then called to speak truths to them with love, in a way that gives life and strength, and guides them in their faith and walk with the Lord.”
Jesus Saw Hope in Every Person, in Every Situation.
The woman at the well, Zacchaeus the tax collector, the adulterous woman persecuted by Pharisees, the parable of the prodigal son – Jesus has shown us consistently that He never gives up hope on anyone. No one is too sick to be healed, too sinful to be forgiven, too shameful to be acknowledged. He knew that whatever circumstances they were in, there was hope for all of them regardless the sinfulness, the guilt, and the shame. Jesus always saw the best in each person and in any circumstance.
“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” – Genesis 1:31
As an encourager, it is not easy to always see goodness in everyone and everything. More often than not, I am clouded by my own pride, judgement, and perception. Perhaps alone with our own eyes, we are not able to see the hope God has for someone. Listening then becomes an important tool and act for us – listening attentively to the Holy Spirit and with empathy to others.
We Are Encouragers, Not Problem Solvers.
We listen to show that the person is of importance to us and that we want to be present with them, just like how Jesus listens to the needs of those whom he met. I am often tempted to quickly jump to conclusions and answers when one shares their difficulties with me. I am quick to treat them like a problem to be solved, but Jesus calls us first to be present to the person, wherever he or she is.
The very presence of a listening ear provides hope for the other, knowing that he or she is not alone in their struggles. Jesus is very much present with them, whether we see it or not. I would say this is similar to what we experience with Jesus in the Eucharistic adoration; where Jesus meets us and he offers us his presence, and indeed His very presence consoles us and provides us with his hope. In the same way, Jesus calls us to bring His divine presence to those whom He sends our way. Jesus sends us out to the world at every mass, bringing his Eucharistic presence with us! “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!”
Listening to the Holy Spirit in faith is essential for us encouragers, as it is not us who heals, but Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to give us His vision and His words; to see not with our own eyes, but through the eyes of faith. Faith to know that the love of Christ knows no boundaries, and that he desires to touch the hearts of every individual. As we grow closer to Jesus and become sensitive to the Holy Spirit, it becomes easier for us to see what God sees in people and in situations. When we see with His eyes, He gives us the ability to see past the problems and instead see the possibilities to speak to people who they are meant to be and called to be, His children. It allows us to be the channel of His grace, to empower the other and share the hope that Christ has for them.
“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29
As I become more aware of this gift of encouragement in my life, it has shown me how blessed I am to be able to receive and offer this gift to others. This gift lifted up to God can do so much more than I can ever imagine. Even if I am unable to tangibly change anything around me, what I can offer is a friendly smile, a word of affirmation, my thanks and appreciation, being happy for another and my presence to someone in need. I pray that through these small actions God may communicate His hope and love for the other, in the same way He has done for me.
So whether you are naturally an encourager or you are someone like me who needs a little help in this area, I challenge all of us to ask God for a greater desire for this gift. Let us be known for the way we affirm others and infuse their hearts with courage, seeing what God sees and wholeheartedly believing in the stories He is writing for each of our lives.
About the writer: Justyn Goh is from NUS CSS. He is grateful that God has given him the gift of life to enjoy. He enjoys watching dystopian movies that make him think about life, jamming with his guitar, and enjoying good food. But most of all, He is thankful for the many people that God has sent his way to enjoy all these good things with!