Barnyard Theology: Power of Hope and Encouragement

Jun 21, 2010 | Faith

This last week I was intern by day and dairy maid by night.  The same week my internship started, my husband and older two children were gone on a mission trip to North Carolina.  This left me and my ten and twelve year old boys home alone to hold down the fort with our menagerie of animals, including two milking goats, Stella and Chocolate.  Each day my feet hit the ground running, milking the teats of these barnyard divas, catching chickens meandering to the wrong pens, then rinsing off and hitting the psychotherapy trail. All in a day’s work beyond the picket fence.
      If I took time each day to thoughtfully write the blogs I want to, I’d have a chronicle of the barnyard scenes.  In and of themselves, they are full of never ending quips.  If I wrote about the thoughts of getting to see my younger children in a different light for a week, out from behind the shadows of their older siblings, there would be some other posts.  And then there are the thoughts that come from sitting with various women throughout the week of internship, and the lists of thoughts I’ve had in the aftermath of reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.  Opting for simplicity, here are the “big rocks” from the journey  of being a woman last week.

  • There is confidence in doing the unthinkable and uncomfortable.  Milking goats and grabbing a chickens is honestly not my idea of a good time, nor something I wake up with a passion to do.  I’d rather sleep a little longer and have a coffee than have my ear up to the stomach of an animal that belches.  But after getting in a routine and knowing it’s not really a big deal, it’s kind of empowering to know you have mastered something you thought would be rather challenging.  
  • Women do a lot for others. I know that, but having fewer people in my life to take care of and be responsible for this past week, the thought crossed my mind many times how much I and many other women physically and emotionally do for others.  The load was a little lighter this week, and I don’t feel guilty in saying (it was kind of nice).
  • People need hope and encouragement, both in words and in deeds.  The more I work with hurting people, I am struck at the power of encouragement and hope, two gifts that don’t cost much, but are often the last thing given.  Why is that?  Is it because we can’t guarantee outcomes?  Is it because we judge others, imposing our qualifications for what it means to “pick yourself up by your bootstraps?”  Are we afraid to seem sappy or unrealistic to impart these life-giving words?  Yalom cites “installation of hope” as one of the key approaches of successful therapy.  But our Lord cites hope and encouragement as foundation to our livelihood, of our faith in Him, our source of life.
    • For everything was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we have hope.” Ro 15:4
    • May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit.” Ro 15:13
    • But hope that is seen is not hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has? Bit if we hope for what do not already have, we wait patiently.”  Ro 8:24-25
    • Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Heb 11:1
  • While there are many other passages of hope I could list here, the thing that strikes me is as believers, our hope is in our knowledge of the Lord, His word, and his character and faith of the unseen.  Yet for non-believers or people whose faith is crippled by discouraging circumstances or people, installation of hope and encouragement by others is all the more important.  When people do not know the Lord and the hope He brings, that is where the faith we have in Him, and the confidence in that faith, is life-giving hope to others.  We can’t guarantee a situation will turn out like XYZ, but we can give hope in what a person can control, which is their own actions, attitudes, and decisions.  For some, all that is needed is confidence from one person to say, “you can do this, it’s going to be okay.”
As I write what I thought was going to be a disconnected stream of thoughts, I realize this was the exact statement I was hoping my husband would give me before he left on his trip.  He expressed worry a couple of times that the boys and I could not handle the different tasks needed to be done to take care of home and barnyard.  Inside I got irritated, because what I really wanted to hear was, “I know you can do this.”  Granted, my love language is words of encouragement, so I was extra desiring of this, but I’m realizing the empowering confidence that came when I realized I can do this.

This is the same joy I have seen on peoples’s faces who begin taking steps on their own, out of discouragement and desolate situations, into confidence that they can control the outcome of certain things in their life.  They can make decisions which empower confidence, after being told they don’t have good judgment or are worthless. Even if they do not have the ultimate hope of Christ in their life, hope comes from encouragement in saying, “you can do this, it’s going to be okay.”

Sometimes it just needs to be heard one time.  Sometimes, just audibly hearing something different than discouragement is the light in the darkness scripture talks about.  The Holy Spirit can infuse unlimited power where He choses, and the power of words to encourage or destroy is always up for grabs.  I am amazed at the power simple words have when we chose to grab the encouraging ones and give them out.  We are the tools to impart the hope, with the faith that He will do a good works where we have been faithful to encourage.  That is the joy of this intangible give of hope and encouragement.

Lord, be our hope and encouragement today.  For those who feel hard pressed on every side, whisper to their soul the words they need to hear from you today.  For those not knowing you, draw them to you, and place the words on our lips to give to them, for your honor and glory.  Nothing else.  You are our hope and glory.  Let your Holy Spirit be the power of life in our words and actions today.


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