Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. — 1 Thessalonians 5:11
In the classic 1904 novel Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter, a kindly couple gives a young man who is “intensely eager to belong somewhere” a new chance in life by offering him employment.1 The boss’s wife treats Freckles like a son, becoming the mother he never had. When Freckles’s boss sees how this kindness leads the young boy to tears, he praises his wife:
Sarah, you’re a good woman, a mighty good woman. You have a way of speaking out at times that’s like the inspired prophets of the Lord… Did you see his face, woman? You sent him off looking like a white light of holiness had passed over and settled on him. You sent the lad off too happy for mortal words, Sarah. And you made me that proud of you! I wouldn’t trade you and my share of the [forest] with any king you could mention.2
Pausing, the man looks straight into his wife’s eyes and adds, “You’re prime, Sarah, just prime!”
The same day my wife read that passage to our children on a long car ride, I had watched her come to the car and told her, “You know, you look really good today,” and my wife responded with the typical wifely response: “You think so? Because my hair didn’t quite turn out the way I had planned it, and I’m not sure about this shirt. It doesn’t look quite right when I leave it out, but I’m not sure it works tucking it in either, and — ”
“Well,” I added, cutting her off, “I think you look fantastic.”
The Bible calls us to encourage each other, which is an active, ongoing obligation during times of challenge, stress, and even just everyday living. Consider how widely encouragement is urged and reported in Scripture:
- God to Moses: “Encourage [Joshua], because he will lead Israel” (Deuteronomy 1:38).
- Soldiers in the midst of battle: “The Israelites encouraged one another” (Judges 20:22).
- Joab to Saul before a battle: “Now go out and encourage your men” (2 Samuel 19:7).
- Josiah to the priests: “[Josiah] appointed the priests to their duties and encouraged them in the service of the lord’s temple” (2 Chronicles 35:2).
- Paul and Silas to the early church: “After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them” (Acts 16:40).
- Paul to the disciples: “When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia” (Acts 20:1).
Consider a few general exhortations to encouragement:
- “But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief” (Job 16:5).
- “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
- “But encourage one another daily as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).
Yet, in our selfish humanness, instead of thinking about encouraging, we may be tempted in our marriages to ask if we’re being encouraged. In fact, I’ll bet there are many wives who, after reading the quoted passage from Freckles, may even have thought, Why doesn’t my husband talk to me like that? instead of asking, “Do I encourage my husband like that?” My friend Lisa Fetters observed that “women think we deserve this encouragement and that men don’t need it, but men do need to hear much encouragement.”
When was the last time you looked in your lover’s eyes and said (to use old-fashioned language), “You’re prime, you know that? You’re really prime!”? When was the last time you didn’t take your spouse’s hard work for granted — inside the home or outside it — and specifically thanked him or her for what he or she contributes to your life? Has it been so very long since you’ve put words to your thoughts and told your spouse specifically what you’re feeling?
Don’t measure yourself merely by what you don’t do (“I don’t come home drunk, I don’t get into affairs, I don’t waste our money”). Love is an active duty, and encouragement, as a biblical command, requires us to take the initiative. We live in a world that beats us down on an almost daily (if not hourly) basis. Marriage is designed as an oasis of encouragement, a way station where we can get renewed and refreshed with loyalty and kindness.
It’s so easy to be complacently married, forgetting the need to unleash the active force of encouragement — but take this gentle reminder.
Love is an active duty, and encouragement, as a biblical command, requires us to take the initiative.
Think of a few things, even now, and make sure another day doesn’t go by before you look your spouse in the eye and say, “You’re prime, just prime!”
- Gene Stratton-Porter, Freckles (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2000), 1. Note: The actual text is written in accent. I Anglicized it to make it easier to read.
- Ibid, 17.
Excerpted with permission from Devotions for a Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, copyright Gary L. Thomas.
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What words of encouragement can you share today? How can you show gratitude, express thankfulness specifically in a way that uplifts your spouse? Come share with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily