Several years ago my family and I were invited to spend Thanksgiving weekend at a picturesque ski resort in Colorado with about five hundred single young adults, most of whom were staff personnel with Campus Crusade. I spoke all week on the subject of servant-hood, emphasizing the importance of believers being those who help, encourage, affirm, and care for others.
By Friday of that week I decided to take a break and hit the slopes (emphasis on hit, since it was the first time I had ever attempted to ski). It had snowed all day Thanksgiving, so the ski areas were absolutely beautiful and in perfect condition. I struck out on my virgin voyage with a positive mental attitude, thinking, "I'm going to be the first person who learns to ski without falling down. Guinness Book of World Records will hear of this and write me up!"
Don't bother to check. I'm not in the book. Working with me that humiliating day was the world's most encouraging ski instructor (yes, I had an instructor!) who set the new world record in patience. She is the one Guinness needs to interview. Never once did she lose her cool. Never once did she laugh at me. Never once did she yell, scream, threaten, or swear. Never once did she call me "dummy." Never once did she say, "You are absolutely impossible. I quit!"
That dear, gracious lady helped me up more times than I can number. She repeated the same basics time and again—as though she had never said them before. Even though I was colder than an explorer in the Antarctic, irritable, impatient, and under the snow more than I was on it, she kept offering words of reassurance.
That day God gave me a living, never-to-be-forgotten illustration of the value of encouragement. Had it not been for her spirit and her words, believe me, I would have been back in the condo, warming my feet by the fire, in less than an hour.
What is true for a novice on the snow once a year is all the more true for the people we meet every day. Harassed by demands and deadlines; bruised by worry, adversity, and failure; broken by disillusionment; and defeated by sin, they live somewhere between dull discouragement and sheer panic.
All of us, even Christians, need encouragement. All of us need somebody to believe in us. To reassure and reinforce us. To help us pick up the pieces and go on. To provide us with increased determination in spite of the odds.
We all need encouragement . . . and we all need to be encouragers.
The beautiful thing about encouragement is that anybody can do it.