In a recent post about Slaying the Discouragement Dragon, I encouraged readers to overcome discouragement by continuing to work for God and by taking up the sword of his word.
While those are crucial strategies you can and should initiate on your own, encouragement from other people can deal a definitive death blow to discouragement. Like the mythological phoenix, encouragement rises from the ashes to bring flaming illumination and healing.
At the end of an extremely discouraging week, someone sent me the most encouraging email message I’d ever received. Its superlative character was due to the writer’s careful and insightful assessment of my work, sharing specific ways the writing functioned effectively and touched him. He comprehended underlying themes and communicated articulately. A pastor and leader, he thanked God for my work and compassionately expressed his hope that the Lord would continue to use my work to comfort and encourage others, as I had him.
God, in his great mercy, sent me exactly what I needed to hear from exactly the right person at exactly the right time.
A few days later, God sent another message from someone encouraging me in another avenue of my work. This person thanked me for my excellent writing, expressing appreciation from the bottom of his heart for what he viewed as my labor of love. He concluded: “May the Lord bless you abundantly.”
Everyone needs encouragement from time to time, perhaps especially writers. Writing is a fairly solitary activity with little return and few responses. Not receiving affirmation can cause an author to question God’s call. Your encouragement can affirm a writer in his or her vocation.
When you’re encouraging others, try to go beyond the generic “great job” or “good work” to cite specific examples of how the writing functioned well or how it touched you. Try to provide authentic encouragement by relating aspects you appreciated about the style or content. If you found something funny, mention that. Authors often write what they view as hilarious lines, but they worry their efforts are ineffective if no one else appears to pick up on the humor. My writing friends and I long to glorify God, and we particularly appreciate hearing readers thank God for our work.
When the Spirit pricks your heart to encourage someone, don’t hesitate. Your note may be the flame that ignites the Encouragement Phoenix and lifts it from the ashes in a blaze of light and healing.