This week has been a rough one for the world; it's hit like a steamroller. People are angry and scared, and with good reason. There has been so much senseless violence and hate thrown around in the past several days. My heart became heavier with each news story I read this week.
Yesterday also marked the start of February, and (though stores have been displaying mountains of pink and red hearts for weeks now) the leadup to Valentine's Day - the grand celebration of love that encourages people to make over-the-top gestures to those they care about. I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day myself; it always just seems like a commercial rip-off that accomplishes little more than making us single people feel awkward. Here's the thing: if you need a commercially sponsored holiday in order to communicate to people that you love them, you're doing it wrong.
But anyway. That's not the kind of angsty weird post I want to write today. (Also, I do know the origin story for Valentine's Day, and it's actually great.)
Friends, in a world that appears to be rapidly spinning out of control, it is more important than ever to love people well. It's important that people know on a daily basis how much they mean to us, not just on a holiday dedicated to hearts and flowers. People are slogging through the trenches each and every day.
It sometimes feels like we can't do anything to make a difference, like things are too far gone for us to matter. I refuse to believe that is true. We don't always know the battles that people are fighting, and we don't know what tomorrow will bring. But what we can do is encourage one another and remind the people around us that we're glad they are there.
There are so many times when we are reminded of people that we know - little things, like the way someone else tells a story or something funny that happens in the line at the grocery store checkout, and suddenly you're thinking about that one time you enjoyed so much with that person you haven't seen today. For the love, don't ignore those moments! They are such an incredible opportunity for encouragement.
For the past few years I have tried to make a practice of grabbing onto those moments where I find myself thinking of someone I haven't seen in a while, those flashes of wow, I miss them, and do something about it. That involves two things: prayer and messages of encouragement.
I firmly believe that one of the most genuinely loving things you could ever do for another human being is to pray for them without telling anyone about it. Because in that moment, it is just about bringing them before the Creator of the universe and thanking him for their existence, and maybe offering up a quick request on their behalf (but not necessarily even that much - gratitude alone is powerful). We like to tell people that we're praying for them, and that is a good and healthy thing. It's the Jesus version of "pics or it didn't happen." But we don't always need to, and we need to be especially careful that it doesn't become about us sounding ultra-spiritual and getting attention of others. Matthew 6:6 tells us that it is a good thing to go where nobody else can see us and pray, that our "Father who sees in secret" will reward that kind of earnest, heartfelt prayer.
The second flows naturally from it - send them an out-of-the-blue message telling them what reminded you of them and that you miss them, or whatever else you're feeling in that moment. It doesn't have to be long or complicated, it just has to exist. People will appreciate it more than you may ever know. The responses I've received by sending out simple messages that say little more than 'hey, I was doing [random activity] today and it reminded me of you and how much I miss you,' have been amazing and are a constant reminder that it takes so little effort to change someone's day. Even when it's a message that goes something like 'I don't specifically know why, but you've been on my heart all day and I'm thankful that you exist.'
It's happened to me a couple of times in the last while, the random message, and it can do more to brighten up a difficult day than I could have imagined. Just knowing that I occurred to someone without even having to be in the same place as them, made me smile.
So often God places these prompts on our hearts for a reason, and we don't even realize it because we get distracted so quickly. They get drowned out in the noise of the world, especially when the noise tells us that we can't make a significant impact. Let's do something to stop that lie in its tracks.
If you're feeling discouraged this morning, know that you matter. I believe in your ability to speak out when it would be easier, more comfortable to be silent. But the world has never been changed by people staying in their comfort zones. Sometimes you just need to buckle down and do that hard thing. I don't know what that hard thing looks like for you this morning, whether it is going out and holding up a sign or having a difficult conversation or simply just finding the strength to pull yourself out of bed or something entirely different -- but I believe you've got it in you.
As you leave here today and return to life as we know it - take a moment to think of someone you haven't talked to for a while. I know you're thinking of someone. Now go and remind them that you care about their existence. Shoot them a Facebook message. Set up a coffee date. Hold your loved ones close. Don't let the darkness hold you down.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV