Have you ever been made fun of for being so innocent?
Innocence isn’t something our culture values.
But God does.
The other day I read a verse I’d never noticed before,
“I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Rom. 16:19).
Interesting, huh? We get that mixed up. We tend to be wise about evil but innocent about good.
If your friends find out that you’re innocent about something evil, they’ll likely laugh incredulously, “She doesn’t know about ______?!”
Innocence about evil is not a curse. It is a gift.
They’ll be more than happy to fill you in on all the dirty details. But even if they don’t, it’s easier than ever to learn about evil. All you have to do is pull up Google, and you’re a couple clicks away from moving from innocent to world-wise just like that.
So . . . will you?
A Word to Innocents:
I know you can feel like an outsider when your friends start talking and laughing about something you know nothing about. The fact is, you are an outsider. But that’s a wonderful thing! If you belong to Christ, you’re new now. Different. You belong to another kingdom. A far better one. Don’t try to fit in with the darkness; walk as a daughter of light. Never think your innocence about evil is a curse. It is a gift. Keep guarding your eyes and mind!
A Word to the World-Wise:
If you’re already “world-wise,” is it too late for you? Not at all! Ask God to make you as curious about “good” and right living as you’ve been about evil. Stop making fun of those who are more innocent than you. Don’t try to “help” them anymore by filling them in on evil. Be transformed by washing your mind with Scripture (Rom. 12:2).
A Word to Youth Leaders:
Several years ago, I asked a young woman if she thought I needed to know certain “worldly” things in order to effectively minister to teens. She said I didn’t and encouraged me to continue to seek to know the Word of God above all. How grateful I am for her wise advice. I am not aware of any ministry opportunities I have lost as a result, and there are so many dirty thoughts I don’t have to battle as a result.
I’d love to hear from you. Would you consider yourself innocent or world-wise? What is one thing you can practically do this week to pursue being “wise as to what is good”?
Last week I shared 4 Ways to Encourage Others Without Even Trying. Today, though, I want to encourage you to be extra intentional about encouraging someone through a handwritten letter. So here are ten steps to writing an encouraging letter:
1. Plan ahead.
It won’t happen otherwise. Choose a regular time to write a letter or two. It could be each morning after you spend time with God, or every Sunday afternoon, or at the beginning of each month. And don’t miss the biggies. Does anyone have a birthday this month? (Don’t forget Father’s Day is this Sunday!)
2. Choose who you want to encourage.
Who is currently going through a rough time? Who did something recently that meant a lot to you? Who can you thank? Who is on your heart today? Who needs Jesus?
3. Examine your motives.
Why do you want to write them a letter? Are you puffing them up in order to get something out of them? Or . . . Why do you not want to write a letter to them? Are you jealous of them? Confess your sinful motives to God, and ask Him to purify your heart.
4. Pray for them.
Don’t just write a letter telling them that you will or you are praying for them—do it right then! There’s no greater, more powerful gift you can give someone than heartfelt, urgent prayer through Jesus to the Father.
5. Let them know you prayed for them.
Even let them know how you prayed for them. Something like, “I prayed that God would help you believe truth during this time, and hope in Him alone . . .”
6. Be specific.
So you appreciate them. But what specifically do you appreciate about them? So you’re grateful for them. Why? If they’re a believer, where do you see God’s grace in their life? How specifically do you see them looking more like Christ on a daily basis?
7. Share Scripture with them.
Romans 15:4 tells us that, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” As believers in Christ, we—of all people—can offer lasting encouragement and hope. Don’t preach, but do point them to Christ and His promises. You don’t have to include a litany of verses; I’ve found that one power-packed verse goes a long way (Prov. 25:11).
8. Keep it short.
If your letter is pages and pages long, most people won’t read it. Short and sweet all the way, baby!
9. Handwrite it.
This isn’t necessary, but it’s definitely extra special. (FWIW: I usually write or type a rough draft ahead of time, so the actual card isn’t a mess.)
10. Invest in some cards and stamps.
If you don’t have the money, lined paper will do just fine. But if you can invest a few extra bucks into cards, it will go a long way in making others feel loved.
I buy the value pack of blank cards from Hobby Lobby and glue the fronts of cards people have given me onto them (I know, I know, just call me el cheapo!).
I like to keep a basket of cards, paper, envelopes, pens, scissors, and glue on hand so I can whip out a card on a moment’s notice. You might want to do the same.
Are you available to share God’s encouragement with others who desperately need it?
But don’t worry if you’re not artsy. This isn’t about making you look good. It doesn’t matter if your card is Pinterest-worthy. The main thing is: Are you available to share God’s encouragement with others who desperately need it?
Writing a letter isn’t the only way to encourage someone. But it sure is a great way to put into practice Philippians 2:1–5,
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
At the beginning of this post, I asked if you knew where your local post office is. If not, you can find the nearest location here. And if you want to know how much a stamp costs, learn the answer here. Happy letter writing!
“[Jesus’] inquiry concerning every person was, ‘Can I do anything for you? Can I share your burden? Can I relieve you of your sufferings?'”
Now we have the privilege of being Jesus’ ambassadors in our neighborhoods, of housing the Spirit of Christ within us and allowing Him to love through us. That said, here are four simple (but meaningful!) ways to encourage others:
1. When you think a kind thought about someone in your head, put words to it.
Say it out loud. To them! (And others, too, if you want.)
My Story: Last night as an older woman was leaving our small group, I told her, “You look vibrant. I didn’t know you when you were younger, but I think you must be one of those women who gets more beautiful with age.”
“You just gave me such a gift,” she said as she kissed my cheek. “Today was really hard.”
Your Challenge: Go ahead. You can do it! Say something nice to someone else. Who knows—they may have had a hard day too.
2. When you hear someone say something nice about someone who’s not in the room, pass the encouragement on.
My Story: Last week a girl told me that one of her relatives hates her. But after spending time with this relative, I specifically heard her say she loved this girl.
I was then able to tell the girl that even though her relative might not express their love well, that relative does love her.
Your Challenge: Listen. Do you hear anyone saying something nice about someone else? Instead of feeling envious, why not share this “good gossip” with that person?
3. Show genuine interest in others.
Yes, even people you don’t know. Who says you have to stare at your phone and pretend they’re not standing right next to you?
My Story: The other day as I was walking out of a retirement home, I stopped to talk to an older woman who was out pruning bushes. She proceeded to show me her different bushes, and we guessed at their names. “A porcupine bush, maybe? That’s what it looks like to me!”
I don’t know if my conversation with her brightened her day or not. It doesn’t really matter that I know. She has great worth as an image bearer of God, and I had the privilege of “seeing” and interacting with her briefly.
Your Challenge: The next time you’re passing a stranger, look them in the eye, and say “hi”! Ask them a question about what they’re doing. Show a little interest. C’mon, you can do it.
4. Say thanks.
Make it a habit to thank the lady filling the paper towels in the bathroom. Thank your server, manager, and/or cook as you’re leaving a restaurant. Don’t take everything for granted. If it’s nice, it’s because someone made it nice it for you.
My Story: A couple weeks ago, without even thinking about it, I glanced up from my table in the grocery store deli and said, “Thank you for cleaning, Jim.” (He was walking by my table pushing one of those big, yellow cleaning carts.)
The next thing I knew, he was standing over me, grinning his toothless smile, and telling me that in his fifteen years cleaning at this store, no one had ever thanked him before.
Your Challenge: Say thank you to someone for something you’ve never even thought to be thankful for.
What did I miss? Surely those aren’t the only ways to encourage others. Let me hear your stories and ideas. Then check back next week for how to write an encouraging letter.
“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Today I want to encourage you to encourage others. Why? Here are three epic reasons for starters.
Because . . .
1. You’re made in the image of the God of encouragement.
He intended for you to reflect Him to the world around you:
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Rom. 15:5).
What’s holding you back from imitating and “imaging” your Father, the God of encouragement?
2. Your encouragement is someone’s lifeline today.
Everyone needs encouragement—even leaders! The apostle Paul—the same guy who wrote at least thirteen books of the New Testament—wrote of a time he was desperately in need of encouragement:
“When we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more” (2 Cor. 7:5–7).
Who do you know who could use a good dose of encouragement right about now?
3. You have real perspective and hope to offer.
It’s too easy in this dark world to start living like Jesus is just a fanciful idea rather than our soon-to-appear King! The end is in sight. The best is yet to come. That ought to change the way we think and live right now. That’s why, for ten whole verses, Paul reminds believers that Jesus is coming back soon. He concludes,
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).
How could the truth that Jesus is returning soon encourage your friend in what they’re facing right now?
I’d love to hear your answers to these three questions. Then, check back next week for ideas of specific ways to encourage others. Because it matters. Epically so.