One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of encouragement. In every type of professional work I've done, I've been able to use my gift to serve as an encouragement to my clients and my students. In certain friendships and relationships, I've had the opportunity to be an encouragement to others in times of sorrow and anxiety and have also received encouragement from them. It is an encouragement to myself just to be operating in my gifts. So, when business is slow and opportunities to encourage others are limited, I get, well, discouraged. Business has been really slow this year compared to previous years, so I've been experiencing discouragement a lot more frequently of late.
But, I am currently listening to a podcast series by Dr. David Jeremiah on the topic of encouragement. He says that people are in more need of encouragement today than ever in the history of the world. He talks about different ways in how we can be an encouragement to others, and how we can be an encouragement to ourselves when we need it most (and boy do I need it right now!). He says that one of the ways we can encourage ourselves is through solitude.
Solitude may be something some people are uncomfortable with, but I have learned to relish it, even when I don't feel like being alone. Here's what Dr. Jeremiah had to say about solitude:
God used certain people in a mighty way, but before He could, He had to teach them to be alone, teach them what isolation was all about. There is ministry in solitude and if we don't learn how to cultivate that, we will have a very difficult time encouraging ourselves in the Lord. To be quiet so you can talk to God and so God can talk to you. King David understood the importance of getting alone, and so did Jesus. If a man considers his time to be so valuable that he cannot find time to keep quiet and to be alone, that man will eventually be of no value to anyone. To spend all of one's time with people is soon to have nothing to give any of them of any value.For me, there are a few things I do in solitude that serve as a big encouragement for me. First and foremost, it is reading the Word at the start of each day and recording in my journal what I think God is saying to me through His Word, as if He were talking directly to me. When I later go back and read what I've recorded, it's often what I needed to be reminded of at exactly that point in time, or it's to confirm that He did what He said He was going to do.
Music is also an encouragement to me, whether it's the soothing music made with instruments by talented musicians, or music made by nature (the sound of the birds, the cicadas, the water). Being alone outside, especially paddling on the water, is helpful for me. God's Word reminds me of the hope I have in Him, while being on the water makes me forget my sorrows and anxieties, at least for those couple of hours. As you probably gathered from the video above, the rhythm of the paddle strokes, coupled with the sounds of the water and the birds make everything just melt away for me.
I love paddling on my own when I'm feeling discouraged (which was how I was feeling the day I shot the above video, and how I'm feeling today as I write this post). But I also enjoy it when paddling with a friend or a group who can also serve as an encouragement. I hope whoever is reading this blog is finding encouragement from the words God has put on my heart to share. What are your own spiritual gifts? (If you've never taken a spiritual gifts assessment, you really should!). How are you using them, and are you getting encouragement from using them in various areas of your life?