The gift of encouragement can literally light up a person's life. Florence Littauer in her book, Silver Boxes, talks about the power of our words, which can bring life or destruction. Paul admonishes us, 'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Littauer says that our words should be like a silver box with a bow on top! Every word is a gift or present you give someone.
Mark Twain states, 'The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning—and the lightning bug.” Words have the awesome power to build us up or tear us down emotionally. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, 'The tongue has the power of life and death.” A word of encouragement is one of the most powerful gifts we can give to someone, especially our spouse.
Whether we are called to fill a full-time pastoral position, teach a Sunday school class, lead a home-cell Bible study, or volunteer for visitation in our local church we are involved in ministry. Ministry in the local church includes both men and women. Paul says that the Spirit has distributed the gifts to 'each one” for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12:7). Most biblical scholars agree that 'each one” denotes both women and men.
The apostle Peter encourages, 'Each [of you] should use whatever gift [you have] received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). How can we encourage our life partner to fulfill God's plan and purpose for his or her life and to utilize his or her gifts to the fullest potential? Here are a few suggestions:
Build a Support Network—Develop a fellowship of colleagues who will support you and your spouse. Take time to talk, laugh and even cry together. Let it be a safe place where you can exchange ideas, experiences, problems and solutions. Most important, you'll be able to be yourself and celebrate your commonality.
Schedule Time for Relaxation—Plan weekly 'dates” with your spouse. This should be a time when you do something that you both enjoy. Whether it's coffee at Starbucks, lunch at your favorite sidewalk deli, a walk through the nature reserve or an evening watching a favorite movie while sharing a bowl of popcorn, endeavor to make it special and just for the two of you.
Invest in the Future—Identify each other's gifts and take determined steps to encourage the development of those gifts. Support new ventures for further education, a favorite hobby or an evening vocational class. Celebrate achievements, such as an earned degree, completion of a class, a realized goal or breaking a current record.
Encourage Fresh Spiritual Disciplines—Challenge each other spiritually to new levels. Perhaps this would include a weekend in the mountains spent in prayer and Bible meditation, or it could be as simple as starting a new physical exercise program on a daily basis. Establishing a new discipline in your life and working at it together will be both rewarding and mutually beneficial.
Many other individuals may encourage and praise your mate, but let your affirmation and words of encouragement be the loudest.