It’s one thing to encourage a fellow Christian who’s going through a storm. It’s quite another thing when you’re going through the same storm. In this passage in Acts, it’s imperative to remember that Paul was not on the shore, shouting out to those being tossed about in the ship as the storm raged around them. He wasn’t speaking to them from safety. He was on the same ship, being tossed about by the same waves. He knew exactly what they were going through—the terror, the heaving of their stomachs as the ship rose and dropped beneath them, the despair. Paul knew, but, he also understood that sometimes the best way to encourage oneself is to encourage others.
Logically, it makes little sense. How can we encourage others when we’re so discouraged ourselves? It sounds so strange, so foreign, yet it’s been proven time and time again. Read any book on depression and you’ll see advice to reach out to others in the form of help and encouragement. Deliver meals to the elderly. Bake cookies for a child in need of cheer. Yes, God designed us in such a way that we receive encouragement when we seek to give it.
Despite the raging seas and the threatening storm, Paul urged his fellow shipmates, “Be of good cheer.” He sought to take away their fears, to renew their hope, and that, my friends is what we need to do as well. As I went down my prayer list this morning, I shook my head and said, “Lord, it seems like now more than ever, everybody is going through something!” Name after name. Trial after trial. I could pray all day long and never reach the end of my list. So many are facing terrible storms, but what are we doing to help them? Are we striving to encourage them, to lift them up beyond their despair, or are we so engrossed in our own storm that we’ve lost sight of all those who are suffering alongside us?
These verses are often quoted regarding church attendance, but I think their meaning goes far beyond that. Look at the first phrase: Let us consider one another. Let’s think about someone other than ourselves. Let’s look for ways to help others instead of being consumed with our own happiness. Consider others and provoke them to love and good works. Urge them to step out of their funk and help someone else. Soon, everyone is helping someone, and no one is sitting alone in despair, which brings us to the next part of the passage: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. We need each other. Iron sharpens iron. When facing a storm, the last thing we should do is seclude ourselves. We need to reach out. Reach out for help and reach out to help. Reach out to get encouraged and reach out to give encouragement. And then, notice that little phrase near the end: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. We need to follow this step now more than ever. The world is getting darker. The nights are growing longer. More Christians are losing hope day by day. Now, more than ever, we need to be reaching out to those in a storm and assuring them, “Be of good cheer.”
Oddly enough, when we seek to encourage others, we come away from the experience more hopeful and less anxious. There’s something about speaking the truths we know with conviction to someone in need and hearing those truths come out of our mouths that help us to solidify our faith. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given spiritual advice or counsel to someone and felt the Lord urging my heart to listen and trust what I was saying. I had the answers. The encouragement was within me. I only had to give it to another before I could access it for myself.
Perhaps you’re going through a storm today, and you feel it’s all you can do to hang on for dear life. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, Yes, it would be nice if someone would reach out to encourage me for a change, but I’m always the encourager. Everyone counts on me. Or perhaps you’re so storm-tossed that you don’t even know how to reach out to someone else because you can’t remember the truth of God’s Word anymore. Whatever the case, there is hope. The situation may be beyond your control, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING is beyond God’s control. He can speak to the storm, or He can speak peace to your soul. Either way, He will get you through this. But if you have to endure the storm anyway, why not cheer up a few friends along the way? Who knows? Your act of kindness could be the very thing that changes their situation or gives them the strength to face their storm, and in turn, they may continue the cycle by encouraging someone else. The circle of hope and cheer could begin with you. To whom will you reach out today?