Sometimes I think of people as little marbles making their way across a great wooden floor. Eventually, every marble slows to a halt. It loses momentum and just sits there. Until . . . another rolling marble comes from a different direction and collides with it, pushing it farther, helping it roll again, bringing it to a place it would not otherwise get to.
In the realm of human relationships, those second marbles are what I call encouragers. And the world needs more of them. I say this because I often find myself losing momentum, losing confidence and courage. And if it weren’t for those blessed with the divine gift of encouragement, I don’t know how far I would get.
Our three-year-old daughter is a shining example of this. No matter how bleak the situation is, she finds words that lift up your head. And I don’t know where she gets them. It’s like there’s an invisible reservoir in her soul, and at the moments when you’d least expect it, she pulls encouragement out of thin air and hands it to you as if it were picture she’d just colored.
My favorite recent example is when I came back from a run. “How’d it go?” my wife asked. “It was . . . it was tough,” I said. “I haven’t run in a few weeks, and I can feel it. Plus, I think my knee is starting to flare up again.” Notice that I was taking something positive—an opportunity for exercise on a beautiful weekend afternoon—and making it negative. I’m prone to negativity that way. But my three-year-old daughter, Nora, looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, “You’re really sweaty, Daddy. That means you did a . . a good job . . . on your run.” A smile found its way to my face. I looked at her with the sweat falling from my forehead and said, “Thank you, Nora! That was so encouraging.”
It’s easy to let little moments like that slip away. But as I get older, I’m seeing how powerful they are. Encouragement isn’t just a nicety. If you’re on the receiving side, it propels you to action when you feel like remaining static. And many times, without words of encouragement from someone else, we would eventually give up on great opportunities.
This year, by God’s amazing grace and providence, I was able to have four books published. (This is after I asked God to help me publish one book at the beginning of this year. My prayers are too small.) The last two books (Finding God in the Ordinary and The Speaking Trinity & His Worded World) in particular, were difficult to produce—not because they were hard to write (I thoroughly enjoyed writing them!) but because I was discouraged throughout the publication process. Receiving multiple rejections from publishers whom I thought would be interested was harder than expected. There were moments when I wanted to give up, to sideline the projects and concede to the whisper of doubt that said they weren’t as helpful as I thought they were.
But then came words from encouragers, little one- or two-sentence remarks by people I love and respect, who told me not to lose hope, to press on, to find a way forward. They were the marbles that collided with me and sent me moving. Were it not for them, I don’t know if I would have ended up publishing these books.
For me, encouragers aren’t given enough credit. Encouragement is profoundly powerful, and those who are blessed with the proclivity to bestow it on others do far more than they probably perceive. The world is full of people who do great things. But I thank God that it’s even fuller of people who encourage those people to do great things. Without encouragers, I’m convinced a myriad of great accomplishments each day would never come to fruition.
So don’t underestimate the power of encouragement. God has a beautiful way of using it to do more than you can wish or imagine.
Care to see the fruit of the encouragers in my life? Here are sample chapters of the two books I mentioned in this post.