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Encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thes 5:11

Do you give encouragement to others? Or do you absorb it from others?

I have been thinking recently about encouragement as a facet of love. It is a way we love those in our church. It is a way we love those in our families. But in particular, I am thinking about it is a specific way we love our spouse. 
Men, do you encourage your wife? She needs it. Ladies do you encourage your husband? He needs it.
How can you tell if someone needs encouragement?

Easy. They are breathing. 
All of us need encouragement. Why? Because life can be discouraging. Ever since the fall, both men and women are in difficult work situations and difficult relationships. We can be discouraged at our relationship with God, our fight with sin, or the difference we are making in a ministry. Beneath the frantic activity, often there is a desperate hunger for encouragement. We wonder, “Am I making a difference? Will I get through this?”

All of us need encouragement.
What is Encouragement?
What exactly is encouragement? Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines encouragement as “to give courage, to give or increase confidence of success, to inspire with courage, spirit, or strength of mind, to embolden, to animate, to incite, to inspirit.” Read that definition again. It is important. 
Literally encouragement is to en-courage, that is, put courage in. 
To Encourage is to Love
When we take a quick look at the New Testament, we find the idea everywhere. 
– Scripture tells us that God is a God of endurance and encouragement. (Rom 15:4, 5). The nature of the Scriptures and God’s love is to give strength to his people. 
– Paul assumes that we will find our encouragement in Christ (Phil 2:1). When we look at all the promises and riches we have in Jesus, how can we not be uplifted?
– A goal of Paul ministry was that the church would be encouraged (Col 2:2. Acts 14:22, Acts 16:40, Acts 20:1-2). Paul was an encourager and constantly loving this way.
– A goal of our corporate meetings is to be encouraged (Heb 10:24-25, 1 Cor 14:31). When we are part of a healthy church we will leave the gathering with increased encouragement. 
– Individual members are told to encourage one another (1 Thes 5:11, 5:14, Rom 1:12). This just makes sense. If God is a God that gives encouragement, one way he does this is through his people.
This is not all that can be said about this topic. Encouragement needs a moral anchor and discernment. I have seen parents so encourage their children even when their child’s actions were foolish. Our children need correction and encouragement. 
Similarly, encouragement needs discernment. We should not sing songs to a heavy heart (Prov 25:20). Speaking simplistic platitudes as we move through the line at the funeral home is not discerning encouragement. 
But we dare not take away the biblical implications of these verses. To grow in Christlikeness is to grow in becoming a better encourager. As we draw on the encouragement that God gives in Christ, we will be encouraged. And we will encourage others around us.
Husband and Wife
What application does this have for a husband and wife? A husband and wife see each other regularly through the ups and downs of life. Their words to each other are important.  Scripture, tells us, “Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Eccl 4:9,10). A husband or wife has the chance to speak encouragement – that is courage – to the one closest to them. 

But how do we do? In my observation there are individuals who speak encouragement to the other. There are those who speak discouragement. And there are those who say nothing. Those who say nothing are sometimes a black hole that absorbs any happiness around it. 

If God is a God of encouragement, then we want to imitate him and be a person of encouragement. 
How Do I Grow in Encouragement?
If you are convinced that this is an area you need to grow in, what are some practical steps you can take?

1. Press against your personality. We all know some people who are just naturally bubbly. We also know there are people who have the temperament of Eeyore, always finding the raincloud in the clear sky. You may be an Eeyore. But personality is not destiny! If you are convinced, that since God is a God of encouragement and this is an aspect of godliness, then you will grow in it.
2. Initiate smiling, greeting, and interest in your spouse. Nothing communicates hope more than small affections like our countenance. 
3. Warm your own heart on the promises of God. To be an encouraging person we need to be an encouraged person.
4. Finally, SPEAK! Speak appropriate words that give courage to the other person. These can be truths that are unique to the situation. Or they can be promises that come from the Scriptures. “Nothing is impossible with God.” is an encouraging promise to hang onto. Even the words in our picture above are encouraging to a discouraged spouse. “Yes, we can can get through this.”

We want our home to be a place that reflects God’s own encouragement. Let’s train our hearts and our children to actively speak in a way that gives courage to others.