Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.
Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. Thanks so much for listening today. I want to talk to you about the topic of encouragement, very specifically, the power of being an encourager, and how powerful and life-changing receiving encouragement can be.
Encouraging someone can make all the difference in the world. Whether you offer a few words or no words at all, sometimes just a smile can affirm someone, can lift their spirits. Encouragement is defined as offering support, confidence or hope. [01:00.6]
When we encourage someone, we're literally putting courage inside of them. That's what it means to be “en-couraged”. I like that. You see, encouragement is transformative. Its healing properties are enormous. Being encouraged builds our self-esteem, offers validation and confidence. Being encouraged restores our hope.
Let me park there for a moment. I think that the greatest property of encouragement is hope and having that hope restored. I think that hope is “the” most significant property because hope is active and transformative. Hope is dynamic. Hope is alive. Hope can cause you to keep standing, even when you want to give up and quit. Hope places and expectation upon the heart, places a demand upon us to believe against all odds that things are going to work out. Restoring hope, in my opinion, is the most significant property of encouragement. [02:12.0]
In my travels as a motivational speaker and as a pastor, I encountered so many people who were simply stuck. This may be you today and I certainly get it. One day things are going great. The next day, you can't even believe the situation you're in, or maybe you're in a season brought on by job issues or health issues, or finances or relationship problems. Have you ever asked yourself, How in the world did I get here? I certainly have.
I want to encourage those of you who, today, for whatever reason, feel stuck. You feel like quitting. You feel like giving up. You feel like your life is going nowhere, that you're in neutral. You feel as though you cannot take another step. Here's my simple encouragement. If you're breathing, there's still hope. Oh baby. [03:16.0]
If you are breathing, there's still hope, so be encouraged.
Friends, I’ll be honest with you. I did not learn this lesson from a book. I did not get this lesson from a class. As many of you know, who listen regularly, my first wife, Trina, passed away following a six year battle with breast cancer. That was a devastating season 25 years ago for me and our young sons, and for a long, long time, I was stuck. There was a mental fog associated with that loss that I had never experienced before. [03:57.6]
I lived in a small town and I can remember many days not knowing where I was. I got lost in that small town that I had lived in for years. That mental fog was real. That depression was real. That loneliness and despair were real. I found myself just running, because if I stopped, I would have to think and reflect on everything that I had lost.
I was teaching school at the time at Texas A&M University, and if I didn't have to teach on a particular day, I’d take the boys to school. They were too young to drive. I’d take the boys to school and I would return back home and I’d go to bed, thinking to myself, If I could just go to bed, maybe if I woke up, my life would be normal again. Normalcy is something that I would never, ever experience again. It's the stuff that death brings about—so I understand stuck. I understand getting stuck. [05:02.3]
But I learned a few things during this season, largely the result of the wisdom of parents. I remember the worst day of my life was in the funeral home, holding the hands of my little boys, everybody crying, and I just looked at my dad and I just said, “Dad, I’ve lost hope. I’ve lost hope.” Maybe some of you are there right now. Keep listening.
My father said something so simple and yet so profound. He said, “Son, you can't lose something that God has given you. You haven't lost hope. You've lost perspective. Now, son, just stand.” There it is. There's the encouragement. “Just stand.” Those are some of the most powerful words of encouragement that I have ever heard in my life. “Just stand.” [06:00.7]
I have over 200 speaking engagements every year and I end every single speech with those encouraging words from a third-grade dropout. “Just stand.” Not only do I share these words of encouragement publicly, but perhaps more important, I share them privately. An unlikely ministry was birthed during my wilderness experience and, truthfully, that ministry has become the privilege of a lifetime.
You see, I get to encourage widows and widowers. Not many. I maybe have five or six that I interact with on a regular basis and they're all at different stages in their journey. Some have lost their spouses as recently as two months, including my best friend. For another, it has been six months. Another, it has been nine months. For another, it has been a year. For another, it has been four years. [07:00.5]
I do two things. Number one, I allow them to talk, and, number two, after allowing them to talk, I encourage them in a very simple way. First I allow them to talk and here's why. I think, oftentimes, in our effort to help people understand that we can relate to their pain, we probably talk too much. The reality is this. You don't have a magic pill that is going to automatically take away their pain and sometimes I have found that the best thing that we can do is just be there. Let them feel our presence. Let them gain strength from our presence. We don't have to be Aristotle. We don't have to be Plato. Just be there.
The other thing that's significant is this. I think people need to go through the cathartic experience of working out their feelings rhetorically. I know I certainly did, and so I’m asking questions that already know the answers to, but I’m trying to work that thing out, you understand? [08:06.8]
And the worst thing that a person can do is go to a grieving person and dominate the conversation with lines like, Oh, I know just how you feel, my great grandfather died. Now, nothing against our great-grandfathers, but there's a big difference between losing a great-grandfather and losing the love of your life. There's a big difference between losing your great-grandfather and losing your spouse.
So, I think not so quickly drawing the conclusion that you know how someone feels can really be a help. Not dominating the conversation can be a help, just letting them talk, because grief is idiosyncratic. It's unique to each and every one of us. We all grieve differently, and so just allowing people to talk through things sometimes can be a great help. It can help them understand that they're not going crazy. They haven't lost their mind. They've lost a sense of normalcy. They've lost perspective and that's what's causing them to feel stuck. [09:10.5]
My advice comes from my experience, and while it may seem simple to some, I hope those of you listening with heavy hearts right now might be encouraged.
After allowing them to talk, the second thing I do is I encourage them with these simple words. Number one, just breathe. Just breathe. Let me just pause for a second and tell you this. For some days, for me, brushing my teeth was monumental. It was monumental. Brushing my teeth was monumental. It was seismic. It was huge. That's how stuck one can be. Just getting up and making a choice to brush your teeth was huge. I tell them to just breathe. [10:01.2]
Number two, just put one foot in front of the other. Just put one foot in front of you. Just take the step.
Number three, I encourage widows and widowers to give yourselves permission. In my case, it was giving myself permission to feel however I was going to feel. In my case, it was giving myself permission to say no. Everyone is inviting you to something. They feel sorry for you and I get that and I so appreciate their sincerity, but most of the time you don't want to go. Who wants to be a third party? Who wants to be a fifth wheel, right? And who wants to put on a happy face when you feel like hell on the inside? To be quite honest with you, I gave myself permission to say no. It's liberating. It is liberating.
Friends, I interact with all faiths. I interact with all beliefs and I encourage people to find strength in their faith. I have discovered that the Holy Scriptures, even for those who may not share my faith, is a great source of comfort. It's great encouragement. [11:09.5]
I want you to listen to what the Apostle Paul said on one occasion found in Romans 12. Paul said be joyful in hope. Be patient in affliction. Be faithful in prayer.
As a pastor, I’ve done more funerals in 2021 than I have in the last five years and every service I read Psalm 23. This is not a Psalm written by a community or by a group of people. It's from the pain of a man who has gone from obscurity to popularity. He has gone from the field of his father, Jesse, to the preeminence, the Holy City of Jerusalem, and suddenly King David finds himself in the wilderness. How in the world did I get here, God? [12:00.0]
One day you're the king. The next day, you're dethroned and detached and abdicated from the throne. Your life is in great peril and your enemies are too numerous to count. David is on the run. There's no helpline available. There's no therapist he can go to. He's hiding. He's in a difficult spot during a rough season.
Maybe you find yourself there today. I want you to listen to how he encourages himself with hope that I’m hoping these words will also encourage you. I share these same words every service I offer.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. [13:04.8]
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: he anoints my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Friends, let me encourage you to encourage yourself, to encourage you to hold onto your faith, to hold on to what you know to be true. I want you to encourage yourself. Why? So that you will be an encouragement to others, because encouragement pushes us forward. Encouragement offers perspective. Encouragement invites hope back into our lives. Your current season is simply that, friends. It's a season. It's just a time in your life. It's not your entire life. [14:02.8]
As one author suggested, just “breathe, darling. This is a chapter, not your whole story.” I’m so glad my dad said basically the same thing when he said, “Son, just stand.” He was saying, son, it's not always going to be this way. He was saying, son, you're going to walk again. Son, you're going to move forward again, but before you can do that, right now, you have to just stand, just breathe, and eventually put one foot in front of the other.
I want you to tell yourself, those of you who are struggling, to just stand. Those are the best words of encouragement that I’ve ever heard. Encouragement takes many forms, right? From a simple smile to kind words that perhaps are offered in a note. To Winston Churchill at Oxford University, all the way to a third-grade dropout in a funeral home, regardless of form and regardless of the season, those encouraging words fall in. Always be willing to encourage others. [15:16.8]
There's someone in your day today, there's someone in your world right now, who needs to hear the words, never, never, never, never give up. There's somebody in your world today who may need to hear the words, keep standing. Be encouraging. Encourage everyone you can and, most of all, make sure every day you're encouraging yourself. Oh, friends, I feel so blessed, so encouraged today that I can't help but look for others that I may encourage.
That's going to do it for this episode. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking the most important question I can ask, how ya livin’? [16:08.1]
Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.
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