Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen you and guard you from evil.
II Thessalonians 3: 1-3
Most people will ask for help for a small task, like carrying a heavy object. Most people don’t have a hard time asking for help there, because it is obvious that the task is too hard. And even in this case, there are some people who would rather go it alone and risk throwing out their back because they don’t want to ask for help.
No one is expected to go it alone. That’s why Jesus told us that the most important commandments are to love Him and to love one another, to serve one another. If we never serve someone else, we are not keeping this commandment. And if we never let another serve us, we are not allowing others to keep this commandment in us. If everyone refuses help, then no one can love their neighbor. Thus it is important that we freely offer help, but also feel we can freely ask for help.
This idea of asking for help also applies to encouragement. We are to encourage one another. We should expect to receive encouragement from one another. We should realize that everyone needs encouragement. And we should realize that we need it as well.
Ideally, we have eyes to see those around us who need encouragement, so that we don’t have to ask “do you need some encouragement?” When you encounter someone who you perceive needs encouragement, it is okay to encourage them, and to also tell them that this is your intention. You can say “I’d like to offer some encouragement.” (You don’t have to add “because I see that you need it.”)
On the other side, when we are down and discouraged, it is okay to ask for encouragement. We ask for help in doing tasks we don’t know how to do—we’ll call someone to help us change a flat tire. We ask for help in tasks that we need help with, like carrying a big box. So, we should also be able to ask for encouragement in the times when we feel discouraged. This is the ideal. In a group of friends or co-workers, when one is feeling down, he or she should be able to say to others in the group, “I need some encouragement.”
Again, it’s the environment where it is safe and expected to be honest. It is not unsafe to ask for help lifting a heavy box. That need for help is obvious. And there probably is a fine line in asking for encouragement because one feels discouraged and asking for a compliment to feed an ego. When encouragement flows properly, there is less discouragement and less need for ego, because people are built up in an appropriate way, leaving no one feeling either empty or prideful. This is why encouragement, in its essence, is very simple, but in creating environments where there is an appropriate amount of encouragement is actually kind of an art form, we might say.
In II Thessalonians 3:1-3, St. Paul specifically asks for prayers (and asking someone to pray for you is a way to ask for encouragement) because he had some specific concerns. He was worried about wicked and evil people who might harm him or thwart his ability to further the message of Christ. He asked for encouragement, in the form of prayer. He didn’t say “I got this” but rather he expressed concern about his ability to speed on and triumph with the word of the Lord.
When we are feeling discouraged, we should not be hesitant to ask for encouragement. It can be asking for a prayer. It can be asking for feedback. It can be a cry that we feel down in the dumps and need some reassurance. We should feel free to ask.
And when we hear from someone who has asked for prayer or encouragement, we should freely give it. This is part of fulfilling God’s commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. We all need encouragement. We all need to be generous in encouraging others.
Lord, help me to find the humility and the honesty to ask for encouragement when I need it. Surround me with people who will encouragement when I feel down. Give me eyes to see those who need encouragement, ears to hear requests for encouragement, and words I can use to help build up others around me. Amen.
Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help lifting a heavy box. It is okay to ask for help in carrying a heavy burden, which can be lightened through the encouragement of others.