I woke up smiling this morning after the most pleasant dream. My oldest sister, Alicia, has been on my mind a lot over the past few weeks. In my dream, she was hunting for something odd and, if I remember correctly, it was a device that measures body temperature. Yep, odd. We were at a restaurant and I had lost her. While I was searching for her, I bumped into an old high school friend. We chatted for a minute, picking up where we had left off as usual and then he scurried off to grab his child who was running away—as children do. As he left, there was Alicia wandering around still in her hunt. I ran up to her and squeezed her tightly. I said something like, “We’ve been searching for you. I’m so glad I found you.” and I wouldn’t let go of her. Oddly, her face was turned away from me and I never once saw it—I didn’t want to see it. I actually remember thinking, Please don’t turn around, I don’t know what your face will look like. I was slightly frightened by the thought. She didn’t turn around but if she would have, I imagine my next words would have been, I love you! Instead, I just continued to hold on tight.
Alicia passed away now four years ago on what would have been her 40th birthday. The early morning of today is the first time I remember having dreamt about her. And it’s so appropriate to me that my response when I saw her was to hold her tight and not let go.
I’ve heard senior adults say that they spent their younger years attending weddings and the latter years attending funerals. Now I’m not close to the senior status, but I’m finding this notion to be true. These past few years, I’ve almost equally attended funerals and weddings and I have a feeling the funerals will only increase as my friendships to the younger generation decreases (with that said, one of my last weddings was to watch a 50+ and 60+ wed, so who knows!?).
Don’t Wait to Encourage
I don’t have many regrets in life. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I do believe that the Lord has used them to refine me, teach me, and make me more like His Son. I know the art of repentance, as I’ve had to repent quite a bit. But if I could go back to the Sunday night before my sister passed away, I would have shared something encouraging to her. I would have told her how much I loved her. I would have been less busy with my own schedule and more attentive to her needs at the moment. I would have listened to her that night. I, obviously, didn’t do any of these things.
We don’t know the time or day when our loved ones and dearest friends will no longer be with us, but if we have them today, then we have an opportunity. I no longer want to wait for a eulogy to tell those whom I love so dearly why I love them. They need encouragement today. They won’t need that encouragement in eternity. By the grace and mercy of God, they’ll be standing at the throne of grace and our words will no longer matter. But as they live and breath on this earth don’t wait to encourage them.
An Encouragement Challenge
Today, I’d like to start a challenge that I believe will be worthwhile and pray you’ll believe the same. Find five people who you think could use some encouragement today. Perhaps it’s the friend you haven’t spoken with in a while or maybe it’s the estranged brother. Maybe it’s your spouse or children. What would you tell them in their eulogy? Tell them today. And if my pleas aren’t enough to motivate you, perhaps Paul’s words can.
Paul instructs the Thessalonians to continue in the encouragement that they have been doing as some, it seems, need assurance of salvation (1 Thess. 5:1-11). The Lord will return and we will not know the time or day. But, if we know Jesus and have placed our faith and trust in His finished work on the cross, we are not in the dark, and will not be surprised by his returning. In the end he tells them, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11). Encouragement isn’t ultimately about telling one another how good we are but instead reminding each other how good God is. We must remind one another of his promises so that we continue to fight the fight of faith. Reminders like, “God will finish the good work he began in you” are promises we need to hear. And things like, “Thank you for your faithfulness to…[fill in the blank]” is a reminder to others that they image our faithful God—even if they don’t realize that the particular characteristic they have is a gift from our Lord.
However the encouragement and whatever the encouragement don’t wait. Get specific. Build one another up today.
So, who are your five? What might you say to them today—don’t wait.
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24).