I reached the top of the volcano as the sun began to dip lower in the sky. Most of the group was waiting for the last few of us to reach the summit. The wind was fierce as I made my way over to the small group that surrounded me with high fives and words of encouragement.
The thrill of standing on top of an active volcano plus accomplishing a goal that seemed unattainable left me shaky and relieved. The year before I prayed and dreamed and wasn’t sure how God would work this out. What I learned is that God is not afraid of big or little dreams. He wants to see you reach the “mountaintop” as much as you do.
Reaching the top of the volcano was a culmination of praying big, stepping out in brave faith, and lots of encouragement from others. You know the end of the story, but how did I get there?
The Journey Along the Way
It was four years ago now. My church spent a weekend sharing about the children of Nicaragua and the nudge to sponsor a Compassion child changed the trajectory of my faith journey. I slowly rose out of my seat to retrieve a packet knowing all the while that God was gently pushing me to take the first step.
A year later, I found myself on a plane to Nicaragua full of excitement tinged with just as much nervousness. My goal was to meet Claudia, my five-year-old sponsor child, but God had so much more in mind.
Most of the trip was one, new discovery after another. The church leaders didn’t know much more than we did. It was the first time venturing to Nicaragua for a mission trip. Day One began with Easter mass and a call for each of us to prepare to go on a hike to the top of a volcano. I’m a regular hiker and walker. Surely, how hard could this be?
Think hot, humid climate, little sleep the night before due to our travel day, and trying to stay hydrated.
The path didn’t look difficult, but the weaving back and forth misled the hikers into believing the incline wasn’t as steep as it really was. Somehow my easy-going steps became more labored and I fell in sync with a group of women and some teens, who I didn’t know I needed until I did.
This is where the encouragement began. Hiking to the top of a volcano is when I grasped the power of words. Reaching the top is where I found the safety net of community.
Reaching the Top
Before we began the hike, the leaders, who had climbed the volcano many times, showered words of encouragement over us. I remember hearing that we would need to rely on each other if we wanted to make it to the top. I’ll be honest with you now–inwardly, I briefly scoffed at the pep talk. I believed that I had what was needed within me to succeed and maybe I would be the person encouraging others. I can hear God laughing right now as I write these words.
Here is the truth.
- You would still find me at the halfway point without the group of hikers who spurred me on to keep going.
- There were others who would also still be catching their breath with me if I had not taken the time to believe in them as they believed in me.
- Cresting the last hill and seeing the community waiting for me was one of the most amazing things I have experienced.
- Encouragement is not just kindness. It is believing in others when they don’t believe in themselves and speaking God’s truth and grace over them.
- Reaching the top of the volcano was not the best moment. Discovering God was there waiting for me was.
I learned how much words of encouragement and brave faith could take me farther than I ever thought was possible. I am pretty sure I am not alone in this.
Why is Encouragement so Important?
God tells us we were never meant to journey through this life alone. It started in Genesis when God created man and then woman (Genesis 2:18). The Book of Numbers speaks of helping to carry the burden for others.
They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone (Numbers 11:17).
Paul calls us together to grasp the depth of God’s love.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:17-18).
We are not only called to community and finding ways to build each other up, but we are better when we seek strength from God first and others second.
I love the description of community in Acts, but especially in Chapter 3.
All the believers were one in mind and heart. Selfishness was not a part of their community, for they shared everything they had with one another (Acts 3:32, TPT)
What if today we take a chance on other people. What if encouragement is not just something we give but receive as well. When the way becomes difficult, can we let go of trying to rely only on ourselves and graciously call on God and “our people” to gather around us?
Maybe, we have spent so much of life believing that strength comes from doing it on our own. Maybe, we need to pause that thinking and grasp a new way.What if today we take a chance on other people. What if encouragement is not just something we give but receive as well. #bettertogether #TellHisStory #linkup Click To Tweet
May I introduce you to the One who is our strength and firm foundation? His name is Jesus and if you don’t know Him will you message me? I would love to pray with you. If you already know Jesus, will you remember that it is okay to ask for help and seek the encouragement of God and others to get you to the top of your mountain?
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That’s so awesome! You’re right—what if we encouraged more and condemned less? Would our country be in the midst of this mess? I’ve climbed Mt. Saint Helens twice and climbing a volcano is no simple stroll! Encouragement from others—even complete strangers—helped me along.
You inspire me with your hiking abilities. I know that without encouragement I would not have made it to the top. I agree that if we encouraged more our country dynamics would look different.
Wow, Mary … what an amazing experience! On a far less grand scale, I’ve been running outside with my daughter once a week (after years of the treadmill) and there are times when her encouragement is the only thing that keeps me going. It really is a powerful thing, just as you say. I love how you point out the need to be encouraged and then to pass that on to the ones coming up behind us. (Also, I love your photo … I just happen to have the very same blooms right by my front door.) 🙂
It truly was amazing. Encouragement is a powerful gift and passing it on to others is even better. I love that your daughter spurs you on as you run together. I imagine you are loving the time with her.
The flower picture is from a local park. I wish it was right outside my front door. 😉
That’ll preach. I have tried to nurture the gift of encouragement in myself for years. So important.
I am sure you are a blessing to many. Good for you for nurturing the gift of encouragement.
Loved hearing this story of how encouragement made the difference and provided the extra you needed to meet your goal.
My desire is to be an encourager as well. These times make it seem there is so little I can do, but your story makes me want to keep trying.
I never would have made it to the top of the volcano without the encouragement of the others. I know the times we live in are leaving us without direction and filling us with confusion. I pray you continue to seek ways to bless others and let God lead the way.
It’s amazing how empowering it is to be encouraged. As I grow older, I appreciate others encouraging me more.
I agree. It is nice to be encouraged and I must say I am getting better at receiving as I get older. Thanks for being here, Amy.
Yes, encouraging is a circle of love both in giving & receiving 😉
Bless you Mary,
I like how you described encouragement as a circle. That fits perfectly. Blessings on your week.
It goes both ways, doesn’t it?
It certainly does. Have a great week.
Thank you for this good encouragement this morning, Mary! I will treasure your definition of encouragement: “Encouragement is not just kindness. It is believing in others when they don’t believe in themselves and speaking God’s truth and grace over them. ” I have felt that many times while running with friends.
I am so glad you got to the top of the volcano. We can do wonderful things with a little encouragement!
You always inspire me with your running. I am sure that running with your husband keeps you both motivated toward your goal. Thanks for your kind words.
So good. We need to be encouragers and also receive encouragement. Givers and takers. Love this definition, “Encouragement is not just kindness. It is believing in others when they don’t believe in themselves and speaking God’s truth and grace over them.”
Good to see you, Theresa! It is good to know that encouragement is a both/and. Are you good at receiving encouragement?
I loved reading this. One of my favorite parts was – “Encouragement is not just kindness. It is believing in others when they don’t believe in themselves and speaking God’s truth and grace over them.”
Thank you for leaving such a kind comment. I love how God is taking this time we are currently in to continue to teach us lessons on kindness for each other. Have a great week.
I echo Jeanne’s comment – I am very good at encouraging others. I see gifts and potential in others, but I’m not so keen on seeing it in myself. The body of believers is about both giving and receiving encouragement. Thanks for the reminder that I need do a little more “take” in the give and take…
You are a beautiful encourager, Bev! You have blessed me many times. I am praying that we both are open to receiving the encouragement that is passed our way.
Thank you, that word spoke to my heart of the importance of giving encouragement to one another, and of looking to encourage beyond our immediate circle.
Hi Sharon! Thank you for joining in the conversation today. Praise God that these words spoke to you today. May you feel God nudging you towards giving and receiving encouragement.
Mary, what a powerful post. I have the gift of (giving) encouragement, but as I read your post, I realized I am not very good at receiving it. I still find it easy to rely on myself to get something done. Then, when I fail or falter, I consider myself a failure. When friends come alongside to encourage, I find it so difficult to receive their words. Your post helped me see that I need to grow in receiving encouragement.
Hiking to the top of that volcano sounds like it must have been an amazing experience! I’m so glad God gave you encouragers and others who could bear you up, so to speak. And, I’d bet you also did some encouraging yourself.
You do have the gift of encouragement. You have lifted me up many times. It really is hard to receive it though, isn’t it?
Everything about the week in Nicaragua drew me straight out of my comfort zone. Hiking to the top of the volcano was just one way God showed me the power of community.
You’re a braver woman than I am. 🙂 What a good reminder to be an encouragement to each other.
I’m not sure if I would say I am braver. I do know that without God I never would have made it through the week. Let’s try to remember to be gracious in receiving as well as in giving encouragement.
Beautiful reminder that we need Him and we need each other. Both/and.
(Has it REALLY been four years???)
It has been four years and I find it just as hard to believe as you. It has taken me about this much time to process the mission trip. It’s amazing to think that God orchestrated the whole thing.