This week, we’ve been working on halter-training the lambs. Some have taken to it better than others. Thérèse and Bernadette had a bit of halter training before they came to us, while rookies Faustina and Josie earned their new nicknames of Flopsy and Dropsy. When lambs don’t want to move forward, they simply drop to their knees like toddlers throwing a temper tantrum. This photo of Faustina and Bernadette, who were tied to a corral panel for all of 5 minutes, was taken on Day 1 and captures what seemed every bit like a comforting hug between them. With a little help from the more experienced Bernadette, Faustina calmed down and leaned into her sister lamb to help make her “affliction” bearable.
There’s a Greek word found throughout the Bible that refers to such giving of comfort and encouragement: Parakaleo. Basically it means “to call alongside.” Not surprisingly, it’s related to the word “Paraclete,” the Greek-rooted word (Parakletos) given as a title for the Holy Spirit. After all, God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, is the greatest encourager and comforter of all!
Encouragement, however, is more than uplifting words, a passing hug, or a hearty pat on the back. While offering support and confidence to others is a blessing, the biblical version of encouragement has the added dimension of helping others to mature in their faith by sharing the trials and tribulations of our own journey and growth in discipleship. In essence, to encourage, from a Christian perspective, is “to walk alongside” our brothers and sisters in Christ, to comfort, exhort, to admonish in love, and to minister to a hurting world. One way we can do that is to ask the Lord, each and every day upon waking, to open our eyes and hearts to the people around us who are most in need of encouragement in their walk with God. It’s amazing how eagerly the Lord honors this prayer. The Holy Spirit longs to make holy use of us as mouthpieces of God’s Word and loving ways. Morover, whatever afflictions we ourselves have endured are meant to draw good for others. God wastes nothing!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (1 Corinthians 1:3-4)
There’s somebody out there today who needs not just a hug, but the more profound benefit of our Christian witness. Let’s hope and pray that we notice them, for in carrying each other’s burdens, we not only fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), but we ourselves also are blessed with a remarkable “boomerang” promise:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you."(2 Corinthians 13:11)
As for the lambs, it’s Day 5 and they’re slowly getting the hang of walking “alongside” of their shepherds. Parakaleo comes in many forms, but for these wild and woolly toddlers, a little encouragement—served up with love and a bucket of grain—goes a long way!
May the God of love and peace be with you.