Breath on Paper small group is taking a break between semesters. We’ll be back June 12th.
Have you ever had people come into your life that only offer words that drag you down? They seem to have the market on your every flaw and make it a point to call out your every failure.
I know I had enough negative words spoken over me that I lost all confidence to believe I would ever be anything more than a failure. But everything changed when God put an encourager in my life. An encourager very much like Deborah, whose story we find in the Book of Judges 4 and 5.
When Deborah, the prophetess and judge of Israel, sends for Barak, the head of the Israelite army, she has a word from God for him. He is to take 10,000 men and go to battle against the Canaanites. Deborah gives Barak a promise from God. “I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.” Barak said to her,
“If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” (Judges 4:7-8)
It kind of seems like Barak is a wimp asking a woman to go along with him. His fear and insecurity may well be justified, having been cruelly oppressed by Sisera for the last 20 years. I don’t think he was weak, I just think he needed reassurance. He needed an encourager.
Deborah did not have to go with Barak. She was the leader; she could have delegated it to someone else. But she went with him, and her presence gave Barak the encouragement he needed. She came alongside Barak as a reminder to, “Be of good courage. Have faith. Be strong.” “Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” (Judges 4:14)
Through Deborah’s encouragement Barak became a man of faith. He stepped out and did what God called him to do, and God fulfilled the promise He made to him. Encouragement made all the difference.
One particular encourager who made a difference in my life came along when I was in my teens. My life didn’t start out great, being a 16-year-old runaway and high school dropout. I did not have much hope for the future other than just trying to eat and keep a roof over my head.
I ended up living next door to neighbors who treated me like family, who fed me and cared for me and gave me hope for a future. Who sat me down and said, “What do you want to do with your life?”
Having failed so much, I never dreamed I could go to college, but against all odds I passed my GED and started my first class at the junior college. My neighbor encouraged me so much, she had me believing I could do this college thing and that I wasn’t going to be the failure that was spoken over me.
The very first test I took in college, I made an F. Failure swept over me, taking me down with a flood of tears. I lost all confidence in believing I could do this. What was I thinking? But my neighbor never considered me a failure. She sat me down and said to me, “You can do it! You’ve got what it takes!” She said those same words to me over and over again all through college, sending me notes and cards of encouragement, always telling me I could do it. And I did do it. I graduated college with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting.
All of us can be encouragers speaking words of encouragement to those around us. It doesn’t have to be a lot of words. It just needs to be words that lift a person up so they can move forward in faith. Like Deborah did for Barak and my neighbor did for me. Encouragement really does make a difference.
Cheryl Crawford is a daughter of the Most High King, saved by grace. Her degree and field of work are in accounting, but would trade it all to farm if she could. She enjoys reading, writing, gardening, SEC football and playing cards with friends. Cheryl is a natural organizer with a heart that loves to serve. You can read more about Cheryl on her BoP bio.