ENCOURAGING OTHERS WHEN YOU ARE YOURSELF DISCOURAGED

We all go through the lonely lows of life of and on – those grim valley episodes with looming wild grasses all around and giant rugged mountains closing in, in the eerie darkness. No pink, white, purple and red flowers to brighten up the way; no welcome chirping of birds to soothe the ears; no sturdy rocks to lean on; desperate for a sunrise but without much hope as to what bloom the rising sun would bring up. Ever been there? For some these low phases are just like the never-leaving ever-clinging pals, no matter how hard they try to step into pathways of sunshine. Almost all of us would have had the experience of going through such a phase at least once in a lifetime, to say in the least.

Can you think of encouraging others when you are in such a low phase – when you yourself have hit the rock-bottom? Should you rather not try to nurse your aches first and get back to your feet before turning to others? Won’t it seem hypocritical to try and encourage someone else, when the very ground under your own feet is sinking? What hope can you afford to offer when you are looking for a silver lining for yourself?

In certain situations, one is left with no choice but to pat another’s back when one’s own shoulder is burdened. Ask a mother who has been fired from work and has to comfort her sobbing child coming home with abysmally low grades! But, in certain other cases, its a choice that one consciously makes to brighten up someone’s gloomy day while one’s own pillow is still not dry from the tears of the night before.

It’s not easy!

To pull a person from sinking sand, one needs to be placed on solid ground anchored to an unshakeable support. Else, all efforts to help would be rendered futile.

The Psalmist says –

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

Except for drawing strength from God, no other strength and deliverance last for long!

When I was preparing for the Indian Civil Services Exam, the day of declaration of result for the Preliminary phase used to be a day that would spell happiness for many and doom for several others. Being the most aspired services in India, the Civil Services saw cut-throat competition from aspirants from all over the country. Of the lakhs who write the exam, less than a thousand make it to the final list. I myself being an aspirant to these services, had shifted from my hometown to New Delhi – the hub of Civil Services preparation.

On the day of results of the Preliminary phase, the few successful candidates would shut themselves indoors and instantly start planning for the next phase of the exam. At the same time, those several aspirants who didn’t clear the exam would have a hard time coming to terms with their one-year’s hard labour having not yielded any results. I have witnessed long queues outside the liquor shops and drunk guys having passed out on roadsides being picked up by rickshaw pullers who didn’t know where to drop them. Reports of suicides, boyfriends and girlfriends breaking up, already-fixed marriages being called off used to stream in gradually.

I wasn’t successful in clearing the exams after six laborious attempts. It was disappointing because I had an academic record envious to many. The morning after the day of result declaration always seemed dark, aimless and hopeless. To top it all, thinking of disappointed family members made matters worse. But I observed one thing about myself all through, that each time I would find out those in my circle of fellow-aspirants who hadn’t made it to the success list and visit them in their flats to comfort and encourage them.

One such evening of the result day, as I descended the stairs of my flat to visit such a friend who lived a couple of blocks away, I found myself thinking aloud in my mind – am I not in the same boat? How come I am going out to succour someone else when my own boat is sinking? Bringing a smile to my lips came the reminder from within that I have entrusted the control of my life and life events into the hands of God long before. He allows us to experience tough circumstances for reasons known to Him alone, but all the while assures us that He is in control. Even though my boat is passing through rough waters, I am in God’s hands. If my boat will topple over, I will fall in the hands of God. I won’t sink. I could then, joyfully go ahead to comfort my friend and later on to call a few others and encourage them over phone.

Jesus Christ promises to be the anchor in the storms of our lives if we acknowledge His Sovereignty. My hope was and is in my Rock – the only constant who never changes in this ever changing world.

I am reminded of another such time, when I was working as a Counsellor in a school. I was to take two sessions speaking to parents of pre-teens on how to understand and handle their children. A room packed with parents awaited me. I, on the other hand, had been having a tough time on the personal front since the previous two days. That morning, especially was so heart-breaking that I was left with no confidence to stand up before an audience and help them deal with the problems they are facing with their children – offering them words of hope, encouragement and motivation.

I was very tempted to request my co-Counsellor to speak on my behalf. But, then I prayed. I asked my Rock to hold my feet on unshakeable ground and speak words of life through me. I can’t say that I stole the floor that morning – but I acknowledge the hand of God in lifting me up to help lift others up.

These are two out of many such incidents in which God has reminded me that not our qualities or earnest desire, but His Spirit which strengthens us to encourage others even when going through the dark valley phase of life.

The Psalmist says –

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

God comforts us not that we could be comfortable, but because we need to comfort others. The Apostle Paul writes –

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

If facing a crisis in your life, don’t look to men for comfort. You may end up being disappointed. Don’t look to drugs, alcohol or sex. Don’t think of ending your life or relationships. Look to Jesus. Every other alternative will snatch the joy from your life while offering a temporary glimmer of hope. But, Jesus promises to fill your life with abundant joy and to help you live life to the fullest so that you can be a source of encouragement for others. Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

 

 

My Prayer for us: Lord, when we go through the rough waters of life, help us to acknowledge You as our anchor so that we in turn will be able to offer anchorage to others by Your Spirit. Amen.

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