The Greek translation for the word encouragement is parakletos, which literally means “called alongside to help.” It brings to mind the scriptural image of two people yoked side by side, as when Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29–30). This kind of encouragement includes offering an uplifting word, but it is more than that. It is standing by your husband and keeping an attitude of good cheer when he is laid off his job. It is pitching in to finish the dishes when your wife is too tired to stand. It’s crouching down to a four‐year‐old’s eye level and listening sympathetically as she tearfully tells you about her skinned knee.
The act of encouraging doesn’t include instructing your partner on what to do about a problem. It doesn’t include giving advice, offering tips for improving in the future, or uttering hollow words such as “You really should have known better than to make that foolish mistake” or “Get over it.” Instead, encouragement is a participation game. When you stand alongside your mate and share his or her troubles, you’ve become a practitioner of parakletos and an exceptional source of courage, hope, and happiness.
JUST BETWEEN US…
Do you know anyone who always makes you feel good about yourself?
How do they do it? Why is it often so difficult to think about the other person first? • How has God used me to “come alongside” you?
How can I do better?
Lord Jesus, thank You that You put it within our power to encourage others. May we grow in that ministry. May we become experts at it—starting in our marriage. Amen.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
Does it feel like you have a tougher job raising children than your parents did, or certainly than your grandparents did? If your answer is yes, there’s a good reason for it. It’s probably true.
As one columnist noted, the problem for parents in this generation “isn’t that they can’t say no. It’s that there is so much more to say no to.” She went on to write that parents used to raise their children in accordance with the cultural values voiced by ministers, teachers, neighbors, and leaders. But in the 1990’s the messengers were “Ninja Turtles, Madonna, rap groups, and celebrities pushing sneakers.” Today it’s even worse. As a result, parents face a daunting and often discouraging task.
It’s not a new challenge, though. Even in biblical times, the apostle Paul advised that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Corinthians 3:19). Wise men and women—including fathers and mothers—have never set their hearts or hopes on the warped values of contemporary culture. Instead, they fix on the eternal values of the world above, knowing that “the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).
You can win the battle for your kids. A good start is to focus on the eternal goal and enlist the mighty power of God in persistent prayer.
BEFORE YOU SAY GOOD NIGHT…
What parenting challenges do you face that your parents didn’t?
How can you help each other guard your family from inappropriate messages in the culture?
Heavenly Father, we do become discouraged at times in saying “no” so often on behalf of our kids. Encourage us to never waver in seeking the best for our precious children, and may we always stay fixed on the eternal goal. Amen.
Proverbs 2:1-5 – “If you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
When you’ve been let down by someone who matters a great deal to you, moving beyond boundaries is not easy work — but it is important. One thing you can do in this regard is to figure out if the problem that was previously an obstacle is truly being transformed. In other words, is this person really changing? Is the big problem being solved the right way?
Here’s an example. I (Dr. Townsend) worked with a couple in which the husband, Bill, was a nice guy but irresponsible. He was one of those likeable people who loves to hang out with others and is a lot of fun. But Bill’s performance in life did not match up to his personality, especially in the area of finances and spending. He overspent on cars, gadgets, and entertainment. He also hid his spending habits, which meant his wife, Pam, was routinely surprised by huge credit card bills. These patterns took a major toll on the marriage. Pam was terrified of an uncertain financial future with him. She was not perfect and had her own issues as well, but his behavior came close to breaking up the marriage.
In our work together, Pam was clear that though she still loved Bill, she had lost all trust in him. She could not believe anything he said. “If he told me at noon that the sun was shining, I would go outside to check,” she said. As is common in these situations, Bill did not want to acknowledge the severity of the problem or make the necessary changes. He wanted Pam to change, to stop blaming him, and to learn to trust him. “If you would be nicer to me and trust me,” he said, “I would feel more supported, and I’d do better in my career.”
I had to step in there and say, “You are right; she shouldn’t be mean to you or attack you. But I don’t want her to trust you.”
Bill was bothered by that and said, “Don’t you want the marriage to work out?”
“Sure I do,” I said. “I want Pam to love you with no strings attached. But that is different from trust. While love is free, trust is earned. In the area of financial responsibility, I don’t want her to relax and trust you until we have evidence that you have changed.”
Again, Bill didn’t like that: “You’re both judging me,” he said.
“No,” I said, “neither of us is consigning you to hell. There is no judgment in this office. But you have not shown that you understand how deeply you have hurt her, nor have you made the necessary changes so that she can trust you again. If you and I were neighbors and I borrowed your screwdriver and didn’t return it, then borrowed your saw and didn’t return it, then your pliers and didn’t return them, what would you do if I asked to borrow your hammer?”
“Of course I wouldn’t lend it to you,” he said. “Okay, I see the point.”
Bill wasn’t as sorry as I wanted him to be at that point. He still didn’t seem to be able to acknowledge the impact he had on his wife, but it was progress.
“Here’s the deal,” I said. “I want you to submit your finances to Pam on a monthly basis for a year. She is in charge. You both see a financial planner together. And we’ll see, month by month, if you are really changing for her sake and the relationship’s sake.”
I turned to Pam: “If he does what I am asking, would you be open to trusting him again?” “I would,” she replied. “I want to get all this behind us. But it has to be real.”
They agreed to the plan. Bill did some blaming at first, which happens frequently. But he humbled himself and allowed her to be in charge of the money. As it turned out, Bill did fine. And Pam was able to get past her hurt and mistrust, because he had truly changed.
Hurt and mistrust are nothing more than signals. They tell you that you either have some healing to do, or the other person has some changing to do—or both. So, while monitoring if you are learning to trust again, also monitor how the other person is doing in the arena that caused a break in trust in the first place.
The Boundaries devotions are drawn from the Boundaries book series, which has transformed marriages, families, organizations, and individuals around the world. The Boundaries series is written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Copyright 2015 by Zondervan; all rights reserved. Learn more at BoundariesBooks.com.