I have learned over a long period of time that it takes almost no energy, talent or skill to let those around us, in big ways and small, know that they are going to be okay, that they're doing a good job, and that we appreciate what they are doing.
All it really takes is a will and awareness of what people around us are going through. You don't need the specifics. Everyone is going through something. And it takes so little to be kind.
These days, maybe more than others, many of us are struggling with similar challenges. Fear of the coronavirus. Job loss. Money troubles. Some of us are on the front lines caring for the sick - that is another level of challenge. Some of us are friends and family of those front line health care folks. Or grocery store employees. Or police officers. Or paramedics.
In the best of times, everyone is indeed going through something. And these are decidedly NOT the best of times.
Encouragement can be big, small, subtle, overt. It can be given with words, a touch, a nod of the head.
Sometimes it's just 'reading the room.' When you're in line at the grocery store and the woman behind you is wrangling 3 kids, trying to get her money out, and feverishly searching for her cell phone, it might not be the best time to point out that she isn't wearing her mask perfectly. Holding off on that point is encouragement through not acting.
Sometimes, you can just tell. The expression on the face, the posture, the way someone moves. They may be angry, sad, frustrated, or just plain exhausted. These days they might be disappointed about missing prom or graduation. Or maybe a job offer was rescinded. Maybe a job was lost. Or maybe the job they have is overwhelming. Maybe the car payment is late. Or the mortgage or the credit card.
Maybe a longed-for vacation had to be canceled or indefinitely postponed.
Maybe the long shelter-in-place is straining relationships.
It's in times like these that encouragement can mean everything. Whether it's a global pandemic, affecting everyone, or a solitary new mom with postnatal depression, a word, a gesture, a flower, a note, a text, a Facebook post can make an incalculable difference. So can a smile, a nod, or an offer of some assistance.
Don't overthink it. Encouragement need not be complicated. You don't need to throw a parade. Use what's available - a phone, a computer, a piece of paper, eye contact, body language, your smile, your empathy. Cut a flower from your yard. If you made extra tomato sauce, bring a container over.
Or take a walk and catch their eye and wave. Maybe a conversation starts or maybe not.
Remember, although your encouragement could be THE difference in someone's day, week, or life, it doesn't have to be. Make sure whatever you do is heartfelt, sincere, and positive. Beyond that, let the Lord take control and do His work on the person. You merely contribute your part - your word, your gesture, your empathy - and let Him put it together with the parts of others.
Along with whatever kindnesses you choose to enact, always pray. Pray for the person or for all people going through things. God will sort out your prayers, know who you mean, know what the problem is, and solve it. In fact, He already knows all about it, including what His perfect solution is. Praying is for your benefit, not His. He likes it but doesn't need it to do His work.
If you don't do your part, the Lord will still complete His work. But we are called to support and encourage one another. He wants us to be involved and supplement His work. We are responsible for one another. For our own sake and the sake of all people, He implores us to be helpful and supportive. He wants us involved in His work because He is doing work on us as well!
Lastly, you may be reading this and thinking, 'Yeah, but what about me? I'm struggling too!'
Everyone IS going through something, including you. It may be big or small, short- or long-term, obvious and visible to all or hidden deep within you. Maybe you are reading this because you need this encouragement:
God loves you.
God knows and cares about what you're going through.
God is in control and will solve the issue in His perfect way, in His perfect timing.
God never fails to come through. You can trust Him.
Someone is praying for you. You may have a whole army of prayer warriors, but know that you have at least one soldier!
Though you are suffering, try your best to be patient. Good things are coming and your patience and faith will be rewarded.
No matter how bleak your situation, the Lord can do anything, will solve all problems, and right all wrongs.
And although that sounds like an awful lot of work, there is no problem that is more important to Him than yours. He is on it!
Thanks for reading. God bless you!
Jim Donaher is a writer, blogger, and author of the soon to be published, "Call Him, He's Home: Learning Prayer to Start and Grow Your Relationship with God" Click the title to read an excerpt.