I glanced down at the “Table Topics” card. “What are you thankful for?,” it said. I looked around the room at the receptive faces of the young women in front of me. “I’m thankful for you,” I said.
The high school and college-aged girls had taken time out of their busy lives to attend a Bible Study I was teaching. All around me, I saw hearts eager to learn God’s Word. I knew the Lord was going to bless them because His Word is alive, and it transforms people (John 6:63, Hebrews 4:12, Romans 12:2).
I also looked around the room and saw the faces of two moms, who loved these young women deeply and wanted God’s best for them. They had contacted me about teaching the study in memory of my dear friend and prayer partner Phyllis Keels, who went to be with the Lord recently. Her passing was sudden and unexpected, but her legacy was deep and strong. She had a passion for teaching God’s Word, and she knew its value to those of all ages.
My heart swelled with the reality of how much we need each other in God’s family. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT). Something wonderful happens when God’s people get together. Our collective lives weave together and produce a beautiful tapestry of God’s grace and faithfulness.
We need each other’s age.
Titus 2:3-4, HCSB, instructs the older women “to teach what is good, so they may encourage the young women.” Since they have had more life experiences, the older women have wisdom to impart to younger women. My friend Phyllis explained it once this way: “The current of the world is so strong, and it is very difficult for young people to swim against it. We have to come alongside them and help them to swim. It’s like the bigger salmon coming alongside the smaller salmon and helping them to swim upstream. Phyllis lived out this concept. She came alongside and mentored several young women with her wisdom, including my daughters.
Look around you. No matter what your age is, most likely, there is someone younger than you in your circle of influence. Ask the Lord whom you could mentor, advise, and encourage according to His Word. What has the Lord taught you through His Word and your life experiences? These are treasures you can share (Psalm 119:72; Job 23:12).
Also, in the same way that you have people around you who are younger than you, there are individuals in your life who are older than you. Ask the Lord who might be a good mentor for you. Ask Him to provide someone who knows and loves Him, who is farther down the road of life, and who can bless you with their wisdom and experience.
We need each other’s experience.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB).
God comforts us in our trials so we can comfort others. About 6 years ago, my friend Phyllis lost her only daughter in a tragic automobile accident. Julie was 28 years old when she died. The loss of her beloved daughter tore a great hole in Phyllis’ heart, and the only way she did not bleed out in grief was by allowing the Lord to comfort and carry her day by day. Over time, I watched as the Lord brought other grieving parents into Phyllis’ life. She lovingly comforted them because “the God of all comfort” continued to comfort her and gave her His Word to share with those who mourn.
I have parented an autistic son for 24 years and counting. The Lord has loved, taught, and empowered me to do that. He comforts me and my son in the struggles of living with autism. A few years ago, He led us to write a book about His faithfulness, entitled, “Optimism for Autism.” He continues to bring others who are impacted by autism into our path, and He allows us to offer them hope and comfort in His name.
Our testimonies about the Lord’s goodness and wisdom become valid when we have already walked through, or are walking through, something someone else is experiencing. In church, we encounter an entire “family” of people with diverse experiences and wisdom. We can help one another as we walk similar paths.
We need each other’s compassion and encouragement.
My friend Phyllis and her sister Suzanne passed within two months of one another. Their poor family was left in the wake of great loss and grief. In the midst of it all, I watched as our church family surrounded them with love and kindness. Countless meals arrived for nearly 3 months, many individuals came to the home and provided respite care for the family, cards came in the mail, people called on the phone, individuals came to the house to visit and help, and lots of folks prayed.
I was overwhelmed as I watched the love of Christ in action. Romans 12:15, NASB, says to “weep with those who weep,” and that’s what our church members are doing with this dear family.
“Jesus wept” at a family’s loss of a loved one (John 11:35, NASB). He felt compassion for others as He walked this earth (Matthew 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34). If Jesus is in us, then His compassion should be seen in our lives. “Christ in you, [is] the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NASB). That word for glory is doxa, and it means to manifest, give an estimation of, and hence result in praise, honor, and glory. In other words, because Jesus is in us, His compassion can be seen through us, and when others experience it, then they praise Him.
We need each other’s compassion and encouragement. Those qualities help us to keep going on this rocky road of life. In fact, we are instructed to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’” (Hebrews 3:13, NASB).
I see this beautiful process taking place within Phyllis’ family. I see it evolving in our community Bible Study for young women. I see it all around me in Christ’s body, the church. It is a sacred practice instituted and led by the “Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB).
May we “walk in love” as He did (Ephesians 5:2, NASB), and may we continually appreciate the gift of one another.
Question: Who has been the “other” in your life, who has encouraged you in the Lord? Comment at the link below, so we can celebrate them with you.
John 6:63; Hebrews 4:12; Romans 12:2; Hebrews 10:25; Titus 2:3-4; Psalm 119:72; Job 23:12; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Romans 12:15; John 11:35; Matthew 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34; Colossians 1:27; Hebrews 3:13; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2