Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. — 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“How do you fill your pitcher?” I’ll never forget hearing the speaker’s words as she finished pouring water into several glasses and held up an empty pitcher. I could relate to feeling empty after pouring myself out to others. She challenged everyone to find simple ways to “fill our pitcher.” My list included:
- Spending time with God
- Reading a book or Scripture
- Conversation with a friend
- Going to the river, mountains, or cool weather
- Treating myself to a latté
- Taking a night off from laundry or cooking
- Creating an event or fun experience
- Visiting my mom and eating her pie
Nurturing myself is still difficult for me. Yet I know from personal experience that when I don’t, I’m unable to pour out hope to others as well as I could. I’ve also discovered that spending time with God always fills my pitcher.
Even Jesus recognized His need for personal replenishment. He was intentional about getting away to rest and pray after working hard in His roles of teacher, healer, and miracle worker. Spending time alone with the Father always filled Him up. He was also alert to the needs of His disciples. Mark reports that after a busy season of ministry, “the apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mark 6:30–32). Did you notice how Jesus protected them from working too much?
From the beginning of time, God built into our weeks a time for work and for Sabbath rest. So don’t feel afraid or guilty if you need to rest.
If you don’t take the rest, your body will eventually force you to take it, by getting sick.
List ways you can nurture yourself. Your ways will not be the same as anyone else’s — whatever fills you, replenishes you, and nourishes you is worth fitting into your routine.
People Beside You: Friends in the Fire
When the doctor announced “Your baby is going to die!” I needed friends beside me to help me through the next twenty-eight weeks of my pregnancy. Amazingly, God hand-picked two friends, Lisa Jernigan and Jan James, to be with me in my journey. I call them “my friends in the fire.” Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were thrown into the fire together when they wouldn’t renounce their faith (Daniel 3), my friends willingly journeyed with me into the flames of suffering and took a stand with me for God’s miracle-working power.
God unleashed His creativity and compassion through this dynamic duo during my several-month journey of carrying and losing my son. My precious friends became the hands and feet of Jesus and taught me how to receive well. They rallied prayer support and card campaigns, accompanied me to doctor visits, planned a shower, wore matching T-shirts as my waiting room greeters, and —before the days of cell phones and social networking — set up a communication strategy for friends and family during my labor and delivery. Amazingly, Jan and her husband, Greg, even shared her birthday and their anniversary (both on August 22) with hats and cake in my labor room. My friends held my precious baby and celebrated his short life with me. Lisa and Jan even spoke at the praise celebration to thank God publicly for our son. I will never forget my friends’ willingness, availability, and creativity. My fearless friends pointed me to God and lifted my hope when I desperately needed it.
We all need people beside us for reasons or seasons, companions who trek through happy or hard times and share laughter or tears.
Joshua and Caleb spied together, stood in faith, and possessed the Promised Land together. Paul and Barnabas spread the gospel together. Women watched Jesus die at the foot of the cross together, and they also went to the tomb early in the morning together. Even Jesus needed friends beside Him. He invited Peter, James, and John to pray with Him and share His sorrow in the garden before He was arrested and crucified.
People Behind You: Help for the Hurting
We’re always a few steps ahead of someone. Reaching back to help someone who needs our strength, expertise, or experience keeps us challenged to keep growing. Investing in others can also spread hope in greater ways.
“I don’t understand why all of this has to happen,” sobbed my friend. Her heart was breaking from the loss of her husband and several other disappointments. My heart ached for my suffering friend. Although my life experiences were different than hers, I could relate to some of her pain. I had endured many times of questioning God, disappointment, unmet expectations, and unforgiveness. During those times, God provided people who reached out, listened, wiped my tears, and pointed me gently to His truth.
This was my opportunity to pass on what others had offered to me. God, use me to lead her to hope again! I prayed silently.
Coincidentally, it was raining outside as cleansing tears flowed inside. I could sense God’s healing happening as I listened to her pour out her hurts, and we talked and prayed together.
“I believe God will use you to comfort others,” I said as I hugged her good-bye. Ironically, when she left, the rain had stopped too.
Anything you offer God can be used to help others less fortunate than you or behind you in their journey.
Even your past pain can be a blessing to someone. Hopelifters are willing to reach back and pass hope on.
Partners in Prayer: “Do you have a PIT Team?”
Personal Intercessory Team.
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up — one on one side, one on the other — so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (Exodus 17:10–13)
Behind the pages of this book are unseen heroes, my PIT team. I enlisted them specifically to pray for me during the process of my writing this book. Most weeks, I sent them an email update of my praises and prayer needs. In times of personal crisis, I called or texted more often. My PIT team’s prayers have lifted me through multiple challenges and times of doubt and discouragement so I could win the battle and finish victoriously. They’ve also prayed for you, my reader, and those you will spread hope to.
I’ll say it again: hopelifters need hopelifters. We need others to lift us up, provide support, and keep us growing so we can continue to spread hope to others.
As you review your roles and look for ways to grow, also be alert to God’s ways of supporting you. Rest from busy seasons and find ways to replenish yourself. Look for people before you, beside you, and behind you in the journey. Surround yourself with wise advisors and prayer partners. As they lift you up, you too will gain strength to lift others.
Watch the Hopelifter Video
Excerpted with permission from Hopelifter: Creative Ways to Spread Hope When Life Hurts by Kathe Wunnenberg, copyright Zondervan, 2013.
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