Sometimes encouragement comes from entirely unexpected sources.
A few years ago, four friends and I embarked on a mini-adventure, each running a 5ish-mile leg of the White Rock Marathon relay. Mind you, my visions of the day and the reality of the morning were quite different. While training, I enjoyed either sunny skies or the comforts of a temperature-controlled workout room. I didn’t anticipate shivering outside for two hours in less-than-ideal weather conditions. Standing in the pouring rain waiting for that baton, out of my blue lips came these words (said with emphasis): “This is STUPID. Why did I sign up for this??” I had distant hope that I would end up loving the experience, but at that moment, boy, was I questioning my better judgment.
Like the deluge of rain on my head, however, the encouragement I received from others started pouring in as soon as I took the first step of that five-mile journey. My favorite “boost” from the sidelines came in the form of a humorous sign held by a cold-yet-joyful spectator: “Go, Total Stranger, Go!!” For five fun miles, largely due to the cheers of others, I went.
Etymologically, the word “encouragement” is derived from the Old French word “encoragier,” which literally means “to make or put in (en) courage (corage).”
En*courage*ment. To put in courage. Encouragement gives meaning and hope to suffering and trial, words of life that enable one to keep going, one foot in front of the other, despite adverse circumstances and disillusioning conditions.
The most astonishing source of encouragement in the course of history came from the womb of an unknown 15-year old girl. From this extremely humble vantage point, the Creator of the universe chose to invade our world. When I ponder it, nothing puts more courage in me than the entrance of Christ into the human experience.
Emmanuel – God With Us. Read through the Gospels and you will see Christ full of life and emotion, at times exuberant with joy, and at others, longing for things to be different. Jesus experienced both deep, meaningful friendships and also intense loneliness, the praise and adoration of others as well as the horrible pain of rejection. He can relate to our hurts, our wounds, our hopes, our dreams.
I’m encouraged because we have a God who knows what it’s like to journey on this earth, living out the joys and pains of life in a broken, fallen world. I’m encouraged because I know that this Jesus, whose life, death, and resurrection accomplished for us what we could never do on our own, is constantly making intercession on our behalf, “cheering us on,” so to speak. I’m encouraged because He has given us the Church, a body of broken people journeying in the same direction, spurring one another on towards the finish line. I’m encouraged because He is coming back again, and one day….all will be made right. I’m encouraged because in the midst of trial, Christmas reminds us of the sweetness of hope and the meaning of the journey. And that is truly worth celebrating.