i have always thought of encouragement as getting a push from behind when you feel as though you are running out of gas. you get that push, and you carry on until you need another one. and, if you constantly have people in your life, you repeat this pattern: live life, run low on gas, receive encouragement, live life.
my vision of this is that of a tire swing. you fly high at first, back and forth. and, as time wears on, momentum slows and you start to drag. eventually, you aren't moving. and the only way you can get going again is if someone will come up behind you and give you a great big push of encouragement.
however, in studying what the Bible has to say about encouragement, i'm not sure my vision is correct.
the greek word translated as "encouragement" in the new testament is parakaleo. it literally means "to call to one's side." the picture is that of help coming to those who are distressed. it can mean to affirm, praise, console, or exhort. (listen to my message on these for types of encouragement here.)
and it's not a vision of a tire swing.
it's a vision of a porch swing.
it's a vision of two (or more) side by side. each helps the other to keep going. when one grows weary, the other carries the weight. sometimes there are soft words spoken to lift spirits. other times there are pointed words spoken to motivate to action. all words are shared in love. they are in this together. side by side.
this is a glimpse of biblical encouragement which is a mark of authentic community.
is there someone in your world that needs you to come alongside them? perhaps you are pushing from them behind…i'd be willing to bet you'll find more joy and effectiveness if you traded in the tire swing for a porch swing.