I sat across the tiny table from her as we talked, hot coffee cups warming our hands. The scents of the full-to-capacity coffee house were delicious, and Saturday morning chatter filled our ears. The background noise gave us a surprising amount of privacy as we talked. Her brow furrowed as she expressed sadness. She would move away soon.
“And I wish I had been able to get more involved while I lived here,” she said. Life had thrown her unpleasant curve balls. She’d wanted to do so much more at her church, in our community. She thought she’d missed her chance to make a difference.
I sat stunned. True, tough challenges out of her control had held her back. Yet my friend had made a big impact while she was here, and I told her so. She remained sincerely unconvinced, but I hope that some of my reassurances hit their target. She would be missed.
After we said goodbye, I thought of some of the ways that she (and we as well) make a difference, even if we don’t recognize them day-to-day.
photo: Gian Luigi Perrella
1. Persistence When things are hard, just getting through the day or the week proves a struggle. We show up, but that’s about it. It’s easy to feel defeated in our daily life, at worst, or ineffective, at best.
But people notice. They notice if we’re struggling, even if they don’t know the reason. And they notice that we show up. We’re still in the fight, even if our fight isn’t so punchy for now. That alone speaks volumes of encouragement to others.
2. Transparency It feels counterintuitive, I know. Risk through transparency about our challenges and weaknesses is the opposite of what the world tells us. And who’s chomping at the bit to make ourselves vulnerable? (You don’t see my hand raised.) It puts a lot on the line.
Yet that’s precisely why it can be effective. My friend is good at this, and her courage floors me. When asked, she’s upfront and humble. She’s honest about what she’s facing. You won’t find martyrdom or self-pity, only simple requests for prayer. We inspire courage in those around us by speaking with honesty and transparency. Some situations call for wisdom and restraint about what to tell, but don’t we too often avoid sharing?
3. The Choice of Joy I saved my favorite for last. We impact people around us when we commit to joy in the midst of difficulties. My friend never fails to point people back to God and His goodness. Yes, it’s a choice, rarely an easy one. No question: It requires God’s love and strength. And strength results when we choose to focus on the joy that God gives us. Think about what James asks of you and me… “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3, NIV)
Now, if we’re being honest and transparent (ha ha…See what I did there?), we don’t like this verse. It’s hard to choose joy when it’s hard to deal with life. But yet again, people will see it and be challenged to do the same. We won’t realize the impact we make, probably, but there’s joy even in knowing that God uses our simple faithfulness for good in people’s lives.
And that, in turn, makes a difference in our own life.
What about you? Consider your daily routine. What’s one thing you can do deliberately today to encourage someone else?