Encouragement and Trust

Posted July 31, 2008

An aspiring composer asked orchestra, conductor Victor Herbert to review and play one of his amateur compositions. Seeing that it lacked merit, Herbert turned it down. Miffed, the composer retorted sardonically, “I thought you encouraged home talent.”

“I do,” rejoined Herbert, “but some home talent I encourage to stay at home.”

Life would be heavenly if there were no discouragement, but only encouragement. The closest we can come to that state here is to become saturated with the power of the truism stated by Paul, quoting Isaiah (Rom 10:11): “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

Some qualities are truly worth extolling, as Paul urged the Philippians (4:8): “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable … any excellence … anything worthy of praise.” God is certainly worthy of praise, having all these qualities, but as applied to him, we don’t think of praise as encouragement (except with the exuberant teen rally, “Go, go, go, God; Three cheers for God!”)

Our encouragement of other humans should, of course, be enveloped in God’s love: “Any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy” (Phil 2: 1) comes ultimately from “the God of steadfastness and encouragement” (Rom 15:5). It is our duty and privilege to disseminate this God-spawned encouragement, even daily (see Heb 3:13), to “encourage one another and build up each other” (1 Thes 5:11), as exemplified by such champions of encouragement and affirmation as the Cyprian Levite, Barnabas, nicknamed “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36; see also 11:23). We are called to be transmitters of God’s support, consolation, and comforting presence to others (see 2 Cor 1:4).

Yet here’s the rub: We can’t transmit meaningfully what we have not received meaningfully. We must learn to receive God’s loving support appreciatively to convey it to others appreciatively. The power and influence of your compliment to another will be far deeper if your own soul throbs with the loving affirmation of the Lord, ”I’m so proud of you, my child, for your efforts!”

True trust in the Lord, among its other purposes, provides a reliance on him to recognize our noble efforts-and also to dissolve our less noble defects-making us ever more buoyed up by his supporting mercy and love.

Fr. John Hampsch, CMF “Pathways of Trust”