“A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.” – John Maxwell
And, a word of encouragement from a friend can strengthen a relationship. Eric and I both strongly encourage couples to make and maintain friendships. Even if it seems like all you need is your significant other, it is simply not true. We need people with all types of backgrounds and personalities in this crazy life. All of my friends, in one way or another, have been a huge blessing to my relationship with Eric. They each meet a unique need in my life which Eric cannot meet. And, Eric’s friends do the same for him. There was a time I wanted to be everything Eric needed; but, after all these years, I realize that is too much pressure for any one person. Friends help take off the pressure of such expectations in life and love.
If you are dating someone who does not have friends and does not desire friends, do not ignore it. His or her anti-social behavior may certainly be a warning sign. If your significant other expects you to meet all of his or her socialization needs, you will probably end up quite tired – and lonely.
If you are like me, you value the people in your life and desire to help them on this journey – even if in the smallest way. One of the best means to encourage yourself is to encourage someone else. No matter what you are going through in your relationship, there are others who are also struggling in their relationships – and you can make a difference. You might even be a vessel God uses to save a marriage someday.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to specific couples who need you. And in the meantime, you can pour out love as a way of life.
How Can I Be a Blessing to Others? (especially if I am struggling in my own relationship?)
- Pray. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16b, ESV). The prayers of a righteous person are more valuable than anything else on Earth. It is tempting to downplay the power of prayer because its effects are not experienced in the natural realm; but, those who have been through hardships can attest to the comfort they feel knowing their friends are covering them in prayer. As I type this, my good friend is at the hospital in labor. She has been waiting a long time for this sweet bundle of joy to come, and as she waits, she covets our prayers. There is nothing worth more. (It was a strong, healthy boy!)
- Listen. When I am angry with Eric, my flesh wants someone to come along side me and say, “Yes, he was wrong. I do not know how you deal with that. You are a saint.” But, in reality, what I need is someone to listen and help me process without adding to my anger. After talking out my frustrations, I can usually see the world much more clearly; and, once I am clear-minded again, I am thankful for friends who refuse to fuel my fire.
- Encourage. In addition to not fueling my anger, I am thankful for friends who encourage me with Scripture and with the timeless truth, “This too shall pass.” When I am caught up in my emotions, friends can see objectively; and, their encouragement to keep pushing ahead is priceless to me.
- Babysit. Sometimes couples just need a night out to think and reconnect. If you have friends with children and they are in need of some breathing space, what greater gift can you give them than the gift of free childcare? And, you and your sweetheart (if you babysit together), can gain some eye-opening parenting foreshadowing.
- Create a Babysitting Ministry. If you enjoy working with children and you want to bless several couples, work with your church to organize a monthly or quarterly childcare evening. For a small fee (enough to cover basic supplies), parents can bring their children to the church for a few hours of well-supervised play time. The children get an outing. The parents get an outing. And, you, your special someone, and your friends get the satisfaction of ministering to several families!
- Hospitality. Over a year ago, friends of ours instituted a pizza night in their home. It is a special time of fellowship where we munch on homemade pizza (seriously, it is so good!) and enjoy each other’s company. Not only is it a time to relax, but it gives us the opportunity to connect with couples we may not have otherwise met. You can aid couples in creating meaningful relationships simply by opening your home.
- Send a Card. In an age of texts and emails, I miss getting postal mail. You know, cards you can pick up, feel, and paste in a scrapbook. On occasion, my mom and my sister-in-law send me cards in the mail, and they make me feel so appreciated. Something as simple as, “Thinking of you, and praying God’s blessings on you and your relationship” is incredibly thoughtful. It is easy to feel forgotten in this big world and little notes remind us that we are not alone.
- Bring a Meal. This tip may not be suitable for everyday life, but occasions will arise when families need one less task on their to-do When a couple is overwhelmed with work or school projects, offer to bring over a meal. When families are sick, meals are certainly appreciated. Keep your eyes and ears open for needs and bless couples with the gift of a night off from cooking.
- Be Artistic. Do you have a gift for crafts? Do you paint or know how to create something beautiful with your hands? If so, you can fashion artistic masterpieces for couples to enjoy in their homes. We encourage newlyweds and seasoned married couples to have visible reminders to love and honor each other. Whether it is a decorative Scripture in a frame, a painting, or a special piece of pottery, consider using your gift to bring hope and beauty to a couple’s home.
- Create a Men’s Group and a Women’s Group. Eric can tell when I am attending a women’s Bible study because I am generally kinder and have a gentler countenance. Sometimes, the best way to bless a couple is to split them apart for a few hours so they can fellowship and learn with others.
- Create a Couples’ Group. If you want to offer something couples can enjoy together, consider developing a group where couples meet, mentor each other, encourage each other, and grow deep friendships. There are a lot of good video series which couples can go through together!
- Take Couples Out to Lunch. When new couples come to your church, move into your neighborhood, or start working at your place of employment, invite them to lunch with you and your significant other. Even if it is the only time the four of you ever hang out, it can go a long way towards making them feel comfortable in their new setting. A little friendliness goes a long way.
- Remain Gossip Free. Have you ever been sitting with a friend or acquaintance, chatting about everything under the sun, when suddenly he or she volunteers information about someone which you can never forget? What goes through your mind at the time? When I am with someone who is full of gossip, I find myself withholding sensitive information about my life. I am so blessed to have friends who are steel traps. When I share my heart with them, I have no expectation of my words going any further. Keeping confidences is a tremendous way of blessing and encouraging couples.
- Be a Mentor. If you have some wisdom to share with the younger generation or your peers, consider doing one-on-one mentoring or creating mentoring groups. Young boyfriends and husbands can learn a lot about being godly, family men from a seasoned husband. And, young women have a great deal to learn from experienced wives and mothers who are still smiling.
- Be a Walking Buddy. Or, you can be a basketball buddy, a running buddy, a hiking buddy, a gym buddy, or an ultimate Frisbee buddy. Sometimes couples simply need some fresh air to change their perspective. Walking with a friend does wonders for my attitude and outlook. Even though you are only exercising with one-half of a couple, you are ministering to the whole couple by providing an outlet for physical activity and uplifting conversation.
- Remember Special Dates. How cool is it when someone else remembers your birthday, the date of a loved one’s passing, or other meaningful occasions? For the first five years of our marriage, the couple who mentored us when we were engaged sent us anniversary cards. We appreciated the effort this couple put into remembering us and encouraging us.
- Give or barter services. Eric hates yard work and our neighbor seems to enjoy it. Our neighbor is not technologically savvy and occasionally needs help with his computer. Our neighbor trims our hedges. Eric offers them on-call computer support. It blesses us to have this annoying chore completed and our neighbors are blessed to have a competent computer help desk just across the street. If you have a skill that others need, bless them with it!
- Are you a writer? Do you have a gift for writing? Have you ever considered writing a book, a Bible study, or even a pamphlet of encouragement? If you have a message of hope to share, write it down. Once you have written it, ask God to use it for His glory. Perhaps you can work with your church and make it available to your congregation. Maybe you can begin a blog and encourage couples through it. And, do not automatically assume your work is not worth publishing.
- Smile. A simple smile can bring calm to a troubled heart and brighten the dreariest of days.
- Be a God Honoring Couple. You can encourage the masses without saying a word. Treat each other with kindness. Honor each other. Show each other favor and keep your disagreements out of the limelight. Stay off of Facebook with your problems. Give the world an example to follow. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2, ESV).
Time after time, I have experienced panic, anxiety, and hopelessness, only to have a friend come alongside me and encourage me – encourage me with Scripture, encourage me with her faithfulness, and encourage me that God is working through every situation.
There is a myriad of ways to bless the couples in your life. Even the smallest offering can make a difference. Be on the lookout. You will find opportunities everywhere. ~smile~
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV).
How can you use your relationship to bless other relationships?