We also know the ravages of discouragement. Discouragement can paralyze and make it impossible to act. It can steal our confidence and throw us into a deadly downward spiral. We see it in athletes on the golf course, tennis court and in the faces of the losing team in the waning moments of the game. Some remarkable people have the ability to resist discouragement and retain their focus. The great athletes learn to fight through discouragement. But all of us are vulnerable to the voices of discouragement from within and from without.
The Adversary whispers into our ear words of discouragement and doubt. But God’s voice is always the voice of encouragement. God is our constant encourager. He believes in us. He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5). When a broken hearted father received the devastating news that his daughter was dead, Jesus said, “Stop fearing, only believe!” He then proceeded to the man’s home and, in the privacy of their bedroom, gently raised his daughter to life. (Mark 5:36).
Heather Herschap was born with cerebral palsy. She is confined to a wheel chair with limited use of one arm. I first met her nine years ago after she had completed a college degree in psychology and was working on a Masters in Divinity.
She says the turning point in her life came when she arrived on campus as a freshman and was alone in the dorm for the first time. Her body became hopelessly stuck between the bed and the wall, and, with her paralysis, she could not work herself free. After hours of crying out for help to no avail she heard a voice, clear and audible, “Don’t give up.” That experience led her to faith in Christ.
A few year later, aware that her prayers were focused on her own problems, she began to pray for others and God whispered in her ear, “India.” If you meet Heather you will know that India is her passion. Her eyes sparkle, her face lights up and her body stiffens in excitement when she speaks of India. She has been to India three times counseling outcasts like herself who are handicapped, encouraging them and giving them hope.
Every day we need encouragement. And every day we encounter people who need to be encouraged: the clerk in the Walmart checkout line, the waitress working two jobs to feed her kids, the aging aunt confined by her infirmity to a nursing home. Perhaps the most spiritual thing you can do today is to encourage someone. It might be the most important thing you ever do.