But it's not just young moms that need encouragement. And it's not just same-age peers that can (or should) offer it.
What about the art students who came to the hospital room to assist their professor in making one more piece of art as he neared the end of his battle with cancer?
The very-pregnant-herself friend delivering a meal to her new-mama friend? Or the turn around of the still-recovering-new-mama dropping off some fast-n-easy grocery items when it was finally her friend's turn to welcome a baby, even if she didn't have enough strength to double-cook a meal yet?
And still, it's not just the new moms or families of those with terminal illnesses that need a meal. (Though they do.)
Maybe it's the sister who ran a weekend conference for a mission organization and went right back to work on Monday morning.
Maybe you're the one that's embracing the unique blessings and challenges of staying at home while the kids are little. Your budget may be tighter in this two-income economy, but you know how to make things stretch, and you get a pajama day on random occasions. Ever thought about doubling that pot of soup for the friend who has her own family too but teaches full-time?
Or maybe you're the executive whose budget's not whimsical but is enough to go out to eat (even if it is out of schedule necessity) once or twice a week. Could you pick up a gift card for the friend who's homeschooling?
Sharing a meal or a gift card or a cup of coffee doesn't always have to be prompted by a major life event. It can just be a result of listening to the Holy Spirit's prompting, of opening our eyes and looking at life from someone else's vantage point.
We can get pretty overwhelmed with our own needs sometimes.
Recently I was putting a voice to my inner desires, not encouraging my husband as I queried, "Why can't someone meet my needs? Why doesn't anyone ever ask me if they can ... ?"
And my husband challenged me with the same idea. "I don't think that's how you should think," he stated simply.
I sulked on the couch, rebuked, and read some more of Nancy Guthrie's Hoping for Something Better. Before long I was at her expose' of Hebrews 10:24,25 with its heading "Persevere By ... Encouraging One Another."
"The body of Christ is made up of needy imperfect people..." (115).
"Who needs a word of encouragement today that you could uniquely give--that would mean something special because it came from you? Persevere in / encouraging others, even when--and perhaps especially when--you wish someone would encourage you" (I115-116).
The truth is, I read that bit above about "encouraging others, even when--and perhaps especially when--you wish someone would encourage you" (116), and my spirit reared up like a rebellious horse. "But I want...."
Thankfully the Spirit's got His bridle on me. And I hushed, thought back to how Nancy Leigh DeMoss ends each day of her A 30-Day Walk with God in the Psalms with confession, supplication, and finally intercession....
"Intercession: Use this passage as a basis to pray for someone whom God places on your heart."
Yep, she copy-pasted that same exact phrase every single day of the study. Thirty days in a row, she challenges me to look beyond my own needs (supplication) and to look to the needs of others (intercession).
And having done that study in the aftermath of a miscarriage, it's precious to me to look back and see the names of the ones God did bring to my mind, the ones I prayed for, the ones whose trials and challenges helped me not drown in my own.
And Alan's right. Getting lost in my own needs isn't the way I'm supposed to think. It isn't how Jesus thought.
Wasn't it my needs that got Jesus through the cross? "For the joy that was set before Him, He endured..." (Hebrews 12:2)? For the good He knew He was accomplishing to meet our greatest need, He served even in His time of greatest suffering.
And so we lift our eyes to consider Him. And we start looking beyond our own needs to meeting the needs of others.
When we're tempted to wonder or moan, "I wish someone would ... for me," that's precisely the moment we should override that thought with, "I wonder who could use a ... from me."
As we change our thinking to His thinking we pass grace along. We teach our kids to see this way too.
- To wash a car or rake some leaves or type an email with a ridiculous number of emoticons.
- To bake an extra loaf of bread ... or meatloaf ... and maybe some mac-n-cheese or mashed potoates and green beans.
- To watch some kids, or read to someone who can't get out any more.
- To pray for someone else. To text or message or email them to let them know you prayed.
- To write an old-fashioned, snail-mail note card in your own handwriting and put a stamp on it and raise the red flag.
- To change sheets or set out pills or coordinate an appointment for an aging parent.
- To change a diaper or cuddle or read a book to a child.
You may be surprised how in giving grace, grace is multiplied.
Your work and labor of love does not go unnoticed by the Author of grace.
And somehow, almost miraculously, your needs are met too.
Try it. I'm trying it. And I'm loving it. :)
Grace and peace,