“Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
Mutual encouragement moves us forward in our journey with the Lord, but the unique quality of the effort Paul suggests is that it moves us forward together. In the church there have been far too many times when we have “shot our wounded,” because they somehow seemed a liability to us. That should never be.
One of the truths of humanity is that we all make individual progress in our spiritual and emotional growth. This growth may be rapid for some and slow for others. It may even seem non-existent in some folks, but in very general terms most people progress in their spiritual and emotional growth if there are no hindrances, in much the same way we progress physically in our growth. But just as with a physical illness, there may be times when some of us have to deal with an emotional or spiritual “hiccup.” As we need someone to come alongside and encourage us or help us when we are sick, we need others to come alongside and courage us when we go through spiritual or emotional distress. And we need to do the same when we see them go through such distresses. That’s mutual encouragement.
Paul says we are to encourage one another “with these words.” The words he refers to are his statements pointing to the Lord’s return. The Lord’s return was a message of hope, so the drift is that we are to encourage one another with words that generate and strengthen hope. This is because hope itself is an encourager. Hope helps us to see beyond circumstances. It reminds us that this life is not all there is.
If you find yourself distressed and hurting in the spiritual or emotional realm, then seek out those who will provide you with words of encouragement. If your path crosses the path of someone who is distressed in the spiritual or emotional realm, then you be the one to provide words of encouragement. Mutual encouragement builds hope.
Lord, Help us today to be hope-givers through our words. Amen.