By Kathy Collard Miller, Crosswalk.com
With all that’s going on in our world, we need encouragement more than ever. Of course, traumatic events, frightening crises, and seemingly unsolvable problems are nothing new. Ever since Adam and Eve left the garden, the world has been in turmoil and people have felt weary and overwhelmed. No wonder God provided so many Bible verses about encouragement. He knew humans would need courage, inspiration, and support throughout history.
In the NIV (New International Version) of the Bible, the word “encourage” or its variations is used in 54 verses. The word “courage” is mentioned in 33 verses. Plus, we could say almost every biblical character who followed God needed encouragement in the midst of challenges. We are not alone. Our loving God generously provides a variety of ways to reassure us. Let’s look more closely at what encouragement is and how we can grow in our courage.
What Is Encouragement according to the Bible?
Encouragement according to the Bible is having strength and joy to trust God and obey Him. It is the confidence of obeying God knowing that regardless of the result, God will bring good from following Him (Romans 8:28).
The word “encouragement” contains the word “courage” which can be defined as the strength, motivation, and ability to follow through in something that seems frightening or uncertain. When we call someone brave, we are acknowledging they are not giving in to their fears. Whatever the perceived “danger,” they don’t give in to intimidation. They follow through.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for “encouragement” is paraklesis, meaning encouragement, comfort, and consolation. It can also mean exhortation. We shouldn’t be surprised that the Holy Spirit is described with a variation of that word: “parakletos” (John 14:26). In the NIV, the word is translated as “advocate.” In the ESV (English Standard Version), it’s “helper.” The Spirit is also identified as offering comfort (Acts 9:31) and being a counselor (John 14:16).
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “courage” is ames and is translated with English words like strong, established, courageous, and determined. As a result, when we are encouraged, we don’t feel weak or insecure. We have peaceful courage to persist and persevere no matter the challenge.
In contrast, the Hebrew word for discouraged in Joshua 1:9 is hatat meaning shattered, dismayed, terrified, frightened, and broken. And indeed, those words describe how we feel when our faith is weak and we want to give up.
Why Is Encouragement so Important in the Lives of Christians?
Every human has the potential to become discouraged, to have a lack of courage. An unlimited number of possibilities can influence our hearts to become depressed, unmotivated, want to give up, think negatively, and believe God doesn’t care. But our faithful God knows how important being encouraged is for the lives of Christians and wants to supply what we need to persevere, persist, have hope, be faithful, and trust Him more and more.
The Bible is a book of truth and it doesn’t cover up the trials biblical characters experienced. Abraham, Moses, Hannah, Naomi, Simon Peter, Paul, and so many others experienced moments of struggle and many wanted to give up. Moses resisted God’s call to approach Pharaoh. Elijah became extremely fearful and depressed because of Jezebel’s threats. Jonah hated giving hope to a people he despised and then he wanted to die. The Psalms are filled with David’s cries of helplessness. Yet in all these examples, God’s strength broke through in their lives and they had the courage and were encouraged.
Even Jesus experienced discouragement. Jesus knew He needed to ask His friends/disciples to pray for him and care about him (Matthew 26:38). Even though His friends didn’t follow through, the Holy Spirit strengthened Him with the courage to face the devastation of taking on the sins of the world. Jesus’s humanity caused Him to be physically weary, yet He persisted and surrendered to God’s will.
Another reason God wants to encourage Christians is that our courage gives glory to God. Our strength points to the Holy Spirit within us and motivates others to seek Him as their helper, comforter, advocate, and counselor. If we can remember God wants to empower us both for our successful living and for His glory, we will have more confidence that He will not leave us alone in our temptations and struggles.
There are four primary means with which God strengthens us.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who faced obstacles and succeeded. It is also filled with stories of people who failed because they didn’t seek God, or their faith was weak. Both of these categories spotlight God’s care and love, and His ability to provide what we need if we will call upon Him. Hebrews 12:1a urges us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” The Bible also tells us facts about the spiritual perspective including who God is in truth. Often we are discouraged because we are not studying the Bible and thus believing a lie about God’s nature (His love, faithfulness, care, wisdom, sovereignty, and many other attributes).
Hebrews 12:2b-3 continues with, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” We can be assured Jesus knows exactly what we are facing and knows the solution.
The stories of Christians, whether from history or present day.
Hearing about someone who persisted in serving God even with the threat of harm brings awe and confidence to believers who are wondering if God will come through for them.
Hebrews 12:24-25 exhorts us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Having fellowship with other believers encourages us as we are inspired to see their walk with God, even if they aren’t perfect.
8 Bible Verses about Encouragement for the Weary Soul
The Bible is filled with courage-producing truths that will encourage our weary souls.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” Deuteronomy 3:16 NIV.
Courage comes from knowing God is with us and will never forsake us. Often, our hearts become faint-hearted because we feel alone and abandoned. We are weary because we think we are carrying the burden without help. But God’s promise of being with us can help us lay hold of the courage he wants to give us.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9 NIV.
This may be one of the most well-known verses on encouragement. God speaks to Joshua who must feel overwhelmed being the appointed successor to Moses. God is sensitive to Joshua and affirms Him of His presence with Joshua.
“But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid’” Matthew 14:27 NIV.
The disciples are terrified because they think they are seeing a “ghost” on the Sea of Galilee. But the figure is actually Jesus. They’ve had a wearying day of ministry and we can assume being tired must contribute to their fear. When we are weary, we see a danger in otherwise non-threatening situations. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us see Jesus in the midst of our challenge.
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” Acts 4:13 NIV.
Trying to be at our best can be wearying. Yet here we see that ordinary men’s courage stood out to give God glory. We need never strive or fear to motivate us to act right. God will equip us for whatever He wants us to do.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong” I Corinthians 16:13 NIV.
Being encouraged and strong means watching out for attacks from our enemy, Satan, who wants to pull the rug out from under our faith. We can be alert that we are more susceptible to discouragement when we are weary. Be on guard!
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” Philippians 1:20 NIV.
When we are weary, we may be trying to force a plan, not of God’s will. The Apostle Paul persevered by surrendering to whatever God had in mind for him. Then he wouldn’t be ashamed. His motive was to see Christ exalted in whatever way God knew best. Such cooperation with God springs from courageous confidence in God’s perspective.
“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people” Philemon 1:7 NIV.
Love gives encouragement. The Apostle Paul tells Philemon how much he appreciates Philemon’s love. We each need love especially when we’re weary. Don’t be afraid to seek out love from others. God wants to provide that boost for you.
“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you’” Hebrews 12:5.
This verse may seem an unusual one but we should be encouraged when God disciplines us. Sin actually makes us weary and weak. God shows His love for us by taking action to point out our sins. He also gives us consequences in order to motivate us to change—for our good.
Prayer for Encouragement
Lord God Almighty, you are the source of my courage. You know exactly the best way to encourage me. Strengthen me to believe you are with me, care about me, have a plan for me, and will never leave me. Remind me of those who have walked in your power with perseverance even though they faced risk and even at times were discouraged. Thank you that you understand my weariness and don’t condemn me. I hand over my fears right now to you and affirm that you know best for me. I thank you by faith for giving me the courage for my next steps. In Your Son, Jesus’s Name, I pray, who courageously went to the cross on my behalf. Amen.
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Kathy Collard Miller is an award-winning author and most often writes about Christian growth through her women’s Bible studies, Christian living books, and Bible commentaries. Her memoir, No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom, tells how God delivered her from being an abusive mom and healed her dysfunctional marriage. She and her husband, Larry, have written several books together including the God’s Intriguing Questions series.
She also is an internationally traveled speaker and loves to share the hope of heart change, abundant living, and eternal life. She has been Larry’s wife since 1970, and is a mom of two and grandma of two. Website/blog: www.