A Ministry of Encouragement
Lydia preached a message titled "Roto"-Rooter Theology" about the ministry of encouragement we are all called to. It was great -- because she was preaching something I see her live out as well as anyone does, and because I needed to think about that topic today.
Today was a day of depression, for some reason. I have learned that the best way to deal with depression -- which I don't deal with much at all anymore, unlike most of my life until about a year ago -- is to focus on Jesus first, praise Him, ask Him to work His purposes in my life, the world around us, and in the lives of the people I care about enough to pray for regularly, and then get busy in my relationships and commitments out of that focus.
I used to try the "focus outside yourself" thing, both in terms of focusing on people and focusing on tasks and goals -- and it didn't solve the depression, because that's not how things work. We really are made to know God and enjoy Him -- and if we neglect that focus, nothing else will ever satisfy, and even if we do a good job going after accomplishments, relationships, and all the other "second things", the satisfaction will never be lasting.
One of the things I have found out of connecting to Jesus like that is that I also really do connect to people. When I was younger (teens -- okay, a lot younger!) I tried to understand and learn how to "make friends and influence people" and learned all those principles. They kinda work. But authentic empathy, authentic admiration, and authentic love cannot be faked, can they? And in getting to know Jesus and let Him teach me and change me and love me, I have been learning how to love other people, and it is amazing how powerful that is.
There are certain people who connect well to me and really bring me joy. It's really easy to temporarily lose focus and look to those people for more of that connection and joy. That doesn't last long these days, though, because -- having had a good taste of the source of real love and joy -- it quickly becomes apparent that I'm twisted in my focus and it's not "working", and I turn back to the real source of joy. And then the joy that comes from the best people in my life is at its most intense and sweet!
I do think that people are the best source of motivation and joy in life, apart from our personal connection with God. I am sure I wouldn't know how to connect with God if there were not people who taught me how, and I am sure I wouldn't keep turning back to that source of real joy and peace and love if there weren't people in my life who kept encouraging me to do that. I am grateful to my mom and dad for their prime role in that, and grateful to a handful of others who have been very key in recent years. You know who you (each one of you) are, and thanks so much for that ministry of encouragement!
I need these things from you: 1) your faithfulness in your own walk to seek those things from God that you can only get from Him, 2) your faithfulness to me to maintain and strengthen the relationship here as God leads you to maintain and strengthen it, 3) your words expressing life as you see it, to teach me and challenge me, and 4) your prayers for me!!!
And I am committed to those same things as I seek to actually be useful in meeting your real needs.
To me, that is the ultimate "Ministry of Encouragement".