This week, we conclude our Hope For Today series with a challenge each of us can do over the next day, week, month, and year.
Do you ever wonder where board game companies find their inspiration? My family loves to play board games, card games, and interesting games no one has heard of.
One of the games I loved playing growing up was Life – you could instantly become a doctor, lawyer, business person, or skip the college route and go the way of the trades.
Then you got married, had kids, bought your starter house, went back to school, bought a second home, and even go on a life-changing vacation. Along the way, you encountered the natural ups and downs of life filled with the joy of additional little ones joining your family and even the loss of employment. You could play the risky stock market or play it safe, and eventually, you retired with modest fortunes or rolling around in Benjamins like Scrooge McDuck in your over-priced mansion.
Then you put it all back in the box to try again another day, hoping for the same outcome. The board game was mean to imitate life at the time – the best part was – you got to experience life with each roll of the dice.
Enter our pandemic life, and it feels less like a fictional board game and more like the game of Twister. For the past year and a half, we have spent our lives trying to detangle our Twister pretzel in hopes that normalcy returns quickly.
The reality is, a non-fiction game of life is unfolding in front of us, and it’s complete with anxiety, stress, hurt, and some happiness.
In our Hope For Today series, we have learned:
- Jesus is our hope for today and the future
- Our hope for today must contain joy
- Jesus is the answer for our hurting world
In today's scripture, the author of Proverbs says,
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25 (emphasis added)
Imagine for a minute that one kind word could change your whole outlook on your day and life?
For students, one kind word could mean the difference between excelling in school and dropping out.
The love of a parent, and the words they speak to and about their children, can make all the difference in their lives.
Think about it – how do you feel when you get a card, a text, an email, or a phone call from someone to give you an encouraging word?
It lifts your spirits, right?!
This past week, I was doubly blessed to meet with my mastermind small group and share life with them, as well as to receive a card from one of them.
When I travel (which is non-existence right now), I love to say “hello” to people from wherever I am at the moment. It’s great because you get three to four hours of uninterrupted peace while on the plane.
Your words have power, and when they are coupled with life-transforming scripture, they are even more powerful.
Our words have meaning. They convey purpose and intention, and along the way, we have lost sight of this. We spew them out and rarely stop to think about the implication they might have on others.
I am equally guilty of this myself – something said jokingly can harm someone else or devalue them. We must be convicted of the words we use even in jest.
The author of Proverbs – most likely King Solomon – was the wisest person to ever walk the planet except for Jesus Christ himself.
The author also says in Proverbs 15:13,
A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. 2
The Hope For Today series was designed to help us live joyful, purposeful lives that make a difference in the smallest of moments.
When our hearts are full of anxiousness and fear, it shows on our faces. Pure joy that comes from our hearts is also present on our faces. Our hurting world needs Jesus, but it also needs you and me sharing our joy with others.
Sometimes people think that when they give their lives to Christ, all the bad stuff in life disappears or doesn’t impact them as hard.
The truth is…life is hard.
Believers still get cancer, die from diseases, get sick, get COVID, lose their jobs, struggle with their purpose, can’t have children, and even struggle with mental health-related concerns.
However, our hope lies in Jesus, and we can cling to Him through the storms of life, but that doesn’t mean there is always a happy ending.
Last year, I read Fear Gone Wild by Kayla Stoecklein – a wife and mother who lost her husband to death by suicide.
Her's was a love story, turned struggle, turned tragedy, and concludes with the grace of a new story that is still being written.
As a pastor, her husband led a large congregation and, over time, slipped into severe panic attacks leading to exhaustion and depression.
Her husband’s story is not a singular event in our culture. Burnout, exhaustion, and anxiety can cripple the strongest of people, including believers.
May is mental health awareness month, and if there is one thing the pandemic has shown us, being isolated and away from others can contribute to struggles with mental health.
Why is this important?
Because Andrew Stoecklein's story could be anyone, it could be the co-worker in the cubicle next to you. It could be the parent picking up their child from preschool. It could be anyone.
Today's scripture encourages us to spread joy through kind words. We don't know the struggles of the people around us, but we can take a few minutes to ask someone how they are or share a smile.
As the author of Proverbs said in Proverbs 15:13,
A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.
Wherever you are in the world, you can spread a message of hope, joy, love, peace, and grace to those around you. If you are a believer, I encourage you to let your face know how joyful you are.
You may be going through some trials right now, and I want you to know we have all been there. We may not be going through your exact trial, but we all have trials.
The Lord wants you to know how special you are and that you are loved by the God of the Universe who created you. Rest in this simple fact – there is only one you – there is no duplicate of you that exists. You are a unique creation from a God who is extraordinary.
Today, I have a challenge for you:
- Choose five people and give them an encouraging word.
You can call them, send them a text, drop a letter in the mail, send an email, or even send a carrier pigeon if you happen to have one.
Your kind word could relieve a teacher’s stress or make a mother smile or be the difference-maker for a colleague today. Kayla's story is extreme, but every day Jesus uses ordinary people to bring others into a relationship with Him – and it might just start with a smile.
Lord, thank you for your love. Thank you for giving Kayla the strength and courage to share her story of tragedy to help others. Please help us to spread some joy to the world around us today. Amen!
- Fear Gone Wild – Kayla Stoecklein (book)
- Rebuilding Beautiful – Kayla Stoecklein (podcast)
- Walking in Strength, Grief, and Vulnerability (blog post)
- Mental Health in the Church – Lifeway Research (2018)
- ‘It’s Like I Got Kicked Out of My Family.’ Churches Struggle With Mental Health in the Ranks – Wall Street Journal (2020)
- Hope In the Darkness for Pastors – Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (2020)
- Dawn – Rebecca St. James (song)
- Mental Health Awareness Month – May
- Suicide Prevention Hotline
- As is well known today in the fields of medicine and psychology, anxiety can weigh a man down (lit., “causes a man to bow down” or depresses him). An empathetic kind word, however, can give an anxious, depressed person support and can cheer him up (cf. v. 18).Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 932). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. ↩
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Pr 15:13). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. ↩︎