Have your Bible handy as you read this. One of my dearest friends, Frances Havergal, wrote in a way that was always rooted in and skillfully expounded the Scripture she loved so dearly. Her lines of text would have many Scriptures in the footnotes that, when read simultaneously, would expand her sentiments with timeless echoes of eternal truths. Ask me about her sometime, I’d love to introduce you to her.
Words speak life into the soul.
The importance of words was established when God determined to have His words contained in a book for us to read. Of all creatures created, humans alone have the ability to verbalize thoughts and inscribe them upon the page for others to read long after their tongues have been laid to rest. He has given us the ability to learn languages, therefore expanding our connection with other souls He loves just as dearly.
Being a friend to others has also been established as something precious and of great importance in the eyes of God. (1 Sam 20:17, Ex 33:11, Prov 27:17, John 15:13) Our examples in Scripture of a true friend include physically helping someone (Luke 10:33-37), spiritually helping someone (Jude 22-23), and emotionally helping someone (Prov 27:6) Your intimate connection to the Holy Spirit will help you to see what your friend’s greatest need is at the moment.
As a Christian woman who lives her life desperately dependent upon her God, when looking for directions on how to do something she will naturally search the Scriptures for her pattern. Isaiah chapter 40 is a perfect lesson in encouragement.
Number one, begin with your intention.
I love that chapter 40 begins with, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” It is God’s intention here to bring comfort to His people and He states this at the beginning. This chapter is a very personal note from a very personal God. It is a true note of encouragement. Our intention in encouragement should always be to turn the chin of our friend upwards unto God, to fill her mind with thoughts of Him. (Ps 124:8)
Number two, give her the certainty of Scripture and God’s plan in this realm of time.
“Thy God reigneth!” shall be your clarion call. “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (v. 5) Remind your dear friend that God is unchanging. (Heb. 13:8, Rev. 22:3-4) Refresh her memory of His strength, power and might; and also of His matchless, gracious tenderness. (Is 42:3, Is 41:10, Luke 12:7, Ps 84:3)
The very best comfort is found in the eternal truths of the Scriptures! “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (v. 8) Our gracious Teacher and Guide has instructed us to hide this precious treasure in our hearts. (Ps 119:11, Ps 119:130) Dear woman, sustain and fortify this fountain of life that is supposed to flow out of you bringing waters of life and soul health to those that are dying and have fallen down by the way. (John 7:38, John 1:12) All else changes but God, and through His Word we are connected to the eternal. (John 1:1-3)
Number three, remind your friend Who this God is with whom we have to do.
Some timely questions, as in the midst of Job’s perplexing trials, help to give a course correction to erring thoughts: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure….?” (v. 12) Have you? Who has said to the tempestuous sea, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?” (Job 38:11) Remembering that God is Creator and Lord of all is meant to give us a proper perspective of our lives, His omnipotence, and His plan in time and eternity. We can’t but God can; and that is what matters. (Prov 1:33) There is a great futility in human effort. (Ps 108:12-13) Are we to thwart God’s plan with our own plan? Who is at the center of His plan anyway? (Luke 1:31-33, Ps 83:18)
Not only is He mighty and all-knowing, but the next three verses, 9-11, declare this great and powerful God’s love and tender devotion for His people. Verse 11, “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” How tender! How gracious! Note the language: He shall “gather in His arm”, “feed His flock”, “carry them in His bosom”, and “gently lead”. God calms the fears of the most vulnerable. He needs no one, but He loves and cares for everyone tenderly, beautifully and completely when, in truth, we have nothing to give Him; nothing but our devotion. It is nothing we can hold in our hands, yet the poorest among us can give Him that.
Fourthly, correct her vision.
Looking down we see the earth beneath our feet and the small square footage of space that we occupy and all the troubles that fill it. “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things…” (v. 26) “…Lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid…” (v.9b) Lift up her eyes and cause her to see from whence cometh her help. (Ps 121:1) Look up and see the stars without number whose existence began when God, as if an afterthought, “made the stars also.” Look up and see the Son. His brightness will dazzle your eyes and cause you to become blind to the things of this world. Look up and mind not earthly things by looking downward.
Help your friend to get her body up and move. Physical activity awakens your very cells to pump out the bad and drink in the good. The body must follow the mind just as action must follow faith for it to be effective. Lift up holy hands in the sanctuary, sing aloud unto God, open thy mouth wide and let Him fill it. For in Him we, “live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
Fifthly, in your efforts to encourage your friend, remind her that God knows!
His eyes are upon her. He knows every detail of her present struggle and even more, He has allowed this. The all-seeing eye has seen fit to strike this minor chord. The One that heareth her prayers has heard her cry of pain and confusion. The One who guides her way has led her to this dark valley, and He walks with her all the way. (Heb 13:5)
Lastly, remember that we are not called to understand but just to trust.
“Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” (v. 28-29) We cannot fully understand His ways but we can fully trust His heart. He freely offereth help in our time of need if we will but look to Him. Hand Him your discouraging doubt, your paralyzing fears, and your rags of disillusionment in exchange for His power and strength. (Is 61:3) Rejoicing in Him, praising His name, and thinking on who He is produces joy which in turn produces the strength we need to carry on. (Neh 8:10, Ps 118:14)
Joyfully and expectantly wait upon Him whom thy soul loveth! (Jude 24-25) Dear Friend, your vision has been clouded by the heavy fog of Now. Let the Son shine and burn away the mist. No matter what storms swirl overhead and all around, the Son is always shining in the heavens above, in that land to which our paths do run. May your vision be filled with the After. For “this too shall pass,” and then forevermore shall be the After.