Welcome! You can find the series introduction here.
Yesterday I quoted Dr. Larry Crabb and Dr. Dan Allender who say that encouraging words are motivated by love and directed at the hearer's fear. Sitting with the Lord this morning, I asked Him what direction to go with today's post. That quote came to mind, so I will flesh it out.
What does it mean for us to speak words that are motivated by love and directed at fear? Well, first of all, it does not mean that every conversation we have needs to be deeply theological or oozing with religion. But as I have mentioned a dozen times, it does mean we need to give thought to what we say. (Which can be a real challenge for someone like me or often processes her thoughts by saying them out loud!) Ephesians 4:29 comes to mind:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
In yesterday's post, I mentioned the importance of quality listening, listening that goes beyond the words being said to get to the bottom of how the other person is really feeling. For example, there are very different ways that someone might say, "Fine," when you ask them how they are doing. Depending on the tone and body language, you will have to decide whether to take them at their word or if it's time to ask another question. In fact, simply noticing that someone is having a tough time can be a source of encouragement to them!
Considering this scenario, we could have various motivations for going deeper with someone. Our desire can be purely to lift their spirits and point them to Christ because of how much we have been loved by the Lord. That is what I'd call being motivated by love. There are other motivations, however, that we will have to be careful to keep in check, like wanting to get some juicy gossip or longing to be seen as a nice person. Impure motivation abounds, but the Lord can transform our hearts to be motivated by love for others, instilling in us a desire to lead them into hope, life, joy, and peace, just as we have know those things in Christ.
Now, how about the directed at fear part. Crabb and Allender go into this a lot in their book, and with simple eloquence. (Again, I recommend their book.) They argue that most of the time we interact with one another from behind layers, hiding our fears, doubts, and real selves behind them. True encouragement cannot happen without layers being stripped away. Self-examination by relating with the Lord, helps us to take off our own. Developing encouragement skills and listening to the Holy Spirit enable us to get past those of others, so we can speak words of encouragement directly at their fears: am I lovable, has God abandoned me, will my needs be provided for, am a good enough whatever I am trying to be, etc.
You can begin today by asking God to purify your motives. Ask Him to increase your awe and wonder at how much He loves you, especially given how little you deserve it. Ask Him to fill you up with that kind of love for others, even the ones who seem so unlovable or demanding. Then also ask Him for wisdom, to know your own fears and to see the fears of others, in order that you might speak words of encouragement into their lives.
Finally, keep reading your Bible! God's Word is full of encouragement. The more you fill yourself up on it, the more you have to pour out at critical moments - even if you have to look a verse up using keywords on Biblegateway!