This week we saw that Barnabas was sent out to encourage the persecuted church of Antioch. The name Barnabas, meaning son of encouragement, was given to a man named Joseph as a nickname. I’d suggest if his nickname is recorded in scripture, his impact must’ve been legendary. Maybe encouragement is much more important than it might seem to be, also it might look different than we assume it would.
One of the biggest encouragers God has put in my life is my dear friend Kurt. I’m a fairly upbeat guy, but when I am discouraged and bummed out I don’t receive bubbly optimism very well. I had gone to Kurt with some great sadnesses over the years and he always strives to understand and empathize with my burdens. Having him relate to me in my sorrows is wonderfully validating, it effectively undermines the sadness by destroying the loneliness. Nothing punches a hole in sadness like companionship! He summarizes my sadness succinctly giving me a different perspective, throwing my thinking into stark contrast, and revealing my faulty thinking. On occasion, Kurt will also level the power of scripture against my pity and gently call me out for harboring some kind of pity monster.
We all need encouragement in our lives, being positive and upbeat is a great way to do that. However, we are promised to go through hardships and struggles, and that is when we need a Barnabas. Someone to dive in and pull us out. The new believers in Antioch needed encouragement when the persecution ramped up. To be a true encourager, you need to go sit with someone for a while and actively listen, find out how you struggled similarly, and gently offer perspective. Barnabas and Kurt have at least one thing in common, they tried. Will you try to encourage someone who’s hurting?