Truth and encouragement


Truth and encouragement

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Written by ANDRÉE SEU

November 1, 2011, 11:39 AM

I go to Barbara when I want the truth with encouragement. There are some people you can go to who are reliable for telling you the truth—but you don’t necessarily feel encouraged afterward. There are some you can go to who encourage—but they have skewed the facts a teeny bit to spare your feelings. I always leave Barbara’s presence feeling strengthened in my spirit and knowing I have heard the truest truth. How does she manage that!

I need to define terms. When I say that some folks tell you the truth (minus encouragement), perhaps I should write “truth” with a lower case “t.” What I mean by that kind of truth is that it accords with the facts, as far as they go, and is not inaccurate as a description of the situation. But what I have learned over the years is that there are an inexhaustible number of things you can say to someone about his problem. Ask a hundred friends and there are a hundred possible perspectives.

The perspective that zeroes in on a salient fact from a God’s-eye view is one that simultaneously brings encouragement. So then, with Barbara (as with all wise, godly people), encouragement is never at the expense of truth. It is never a trade-off. The truer the truth, the more encouragement it brings in tow. In fact, encouragement with low truth value is a very damp encouragement indeed. Isaiah 29:8 speaks of a man who dreams he is eating and then wakes up still hungry. That’s what encouragement without truth is: a low-caloric thing, a waterless cloud.

Just to make it more concrete, if I told Barbara something that was bothering me about one of my children, God might bring to her mind a wonderful thing my child had done that I had overlooked in my blindsided emotion. Or if I came at Barbara with despair, she would bring up the subject of hope. And hope is a “truer” subject than despair, because God’s nature is one of hope and not despair.

Maybe the biggest lesson in this for me is that if I should ever find myself, in the future, in the position of being sought out for counsel, I will never have to think I must choose between offering truth and encouragement. If truth is done right, it is the most encouraging thing. And if encouragement is done right, it is the most true thing.

And the ultimate truth is about whatever problem you are facing as you read this column is that all things work for the good of those who love God. All things.