Real encouragement includes helping someone find their purpose in this world, i.e., helping them figure out what God created them to be and to do.
Coffee cups come in all shapes and sizes. Tall, short, fat, skinny, plain or ornate. Some are fancy and expensive, some are common and inexpensive. For coffee drinkers, some cups have special significance, because they come with a memory of a place or a circumstance. Some coffee cups belong to a set, some belong in a collection, and some are totally and wonderfully unique, all by themselves. But the most important thing about most coffee cups is not any of those things. For coffee drinkers, in most cases, the most important thing about a coffee cup is not what is on the outside of the cup, but what goes inside the cup. It’s the difference between a coffee cup and a cup. It is part of its identity, its very purpose.
People are like coffee cups in that way. Ultimately, what is most important about a person is the spirit within them which moves them forward. It is why people from the very beginning of time have gone to unbelievable lengths to find their significance, i.e., their purpose in this world. It is why adopted children search for their birthparents. It is why people climb mountains and swim oceans and go on walkabouts. And it is why people seek God.
We want to know why we are here, why God wired us in the specific way He did, and what our wiring is intended to produce in us. We take personality inventories and aptitude tests because we want to better understand who we are. We go to therapy and we read self-help books and we have long conversations late into the night with people we love because we want to know ourselves better, and to know our purpose in this world.
So, when someone whose opinion matters to us says to us, “I think I can see what God wired you to do…” we stop what we are doing and we lean in and listen. Because, no matter what else we believe about God, there is something in us that needs to know why He created us and what He is doing through us. It gives us significance, and it sets us apart from everyone else. Our purpose is a critical part of our identity. In a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to one of his churches, he said this:
Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful… 1 Corinthians 12:7-8 (The Message)
If I want to encourage someone in my life, one of the most profound ways I can do that is to help her see God’s spirit at work in her. It not only identifies something good already taking place in her, but it shifts the focus to days and years ahead, to good things that could be. It helps chart a course for fulfillment and significance and purpose. It builds confidence and trust. It does wonderful things not only in their life, but in this relationship.
Want to be encouraged? Ask the spiritual mentors in your life what they see God doing in and through you. Want to encourage someone else? Do that for them. Help them see how they are wired, and what their purpose might include. You’ll be amazed what that might build in your relationship.