By Sigrid Fowler

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

​We are to “encourage one another daily” (Heb 3: 13). Encouragement can come in various forms. To encourage is to give hope, to strengthen, to infuse confidence or bring help, to provide support. The Bible records many hazards of human experience and the discouraging eventualities that face us. It also serves as a guide for encouragement. “Bright eyes gladden the heart, good news puts fat on the bones,” says Proverbs 15: 30. Bright eyes? It’s a little thing, but like smiles, an encouragement. Consider this bit of wisdom on the other side: “He who listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise” (Prov 15: 31). So encouragement isn’t simply a positive approach, no exceptions. Sometimes encouragement can arrive in a decidedly negative tone–corrective reproof, for example: “A soothing tongue is a tree of life” (Prov 15: 4a). Then, “but he who regards reproof is prudent” (Prov 15: 5b). 

​I grew up hearing this wise word from my mother: “A soft answer turns away wrath.” The rest of that proverb offerssome more useful insight: “But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov 15: 1). What is more disheartening than to be confronted by a seriously wrathful person? The proverb showshow not to make it worse. The practical value of that bit of wisdom about a “soft answer” is huge, an encouragement for building good relationships.

​Anxiety is another cause of discouragement. Proverbs 12: 25 says this: “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad.” The impact of the “good word” is indisputable. Paul wrote the Philippians about such communications. “Finally, brethren,” he writes, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any excellence, anything worthy of praise,think about these things” (Phil 4:8). Proverbs 23: 7a adds, “As a man thinks, so he is.” If our own minds are fixed on excellent things, things “worthy of praise,” we’ll be more apt to be an encouragement to others. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6: 45). According to Proverbs 12: 18b, “The tongue of the wise brings healing.” Encouragement is most often spoken, and when we encourage another person, the positive effect lingers with us. Says Proverbs 12: 14: “A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, and the deeds of a man’s hands will return to him.”

​What is more discouraging or a greater cause for anxiety than to realize that you’ve been lied to? Proverbs 12: 17 says this: “The one who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” Proven deceit certainly doesn’t encourage. Itdrains confidence and God condemns it: “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are his delight” (Prov 12: 22). Human rulers agree, according to Proverbs: “Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks the truth is loved” (Prov 16: 13). Who doesn’t admire authenticity and candor? In fact, truth builds relationships, brings order to perplexity, makes plans work, and serves as the glue of functioning societies. Says Scripture, “Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment” (Prob 12: 19).

​Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14: 6). What betterencouragement than the gospel? The angel Michael said toDaniel, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12: 3).Paul, facing death as a Roman prisoner said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1: 21). Facing the sinfulness he had to acknowledge, Paul wrote, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7: 24). Then he states the best hope any of us have, the best encouragement for that most disheartening, debilitating, and confounding reality, the sin we all must face: “Thanks be to God,” Paul declares, “through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7: 25a). Explaining further to the Corinthian Christians, he writes, “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God him” (2 Cor 5: 21). There’s no better encouragement for a heavy heart.