Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
These verses are often used in the argument to encourage regular attendance at church services. However, they serve up three good principles that are relevant to the way we connect and encourage our families.
First: Consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Several things cry out for our consideration on a daily basis. The word “consider” means to think about, ponder, deliberate, meditate, and focus on. We have to consider the bills, caring for children, deadlines on the job, after-school activities, getting groceries, preparing meals, and hosts of household chores. On top of those, this verse is telling us to consider yet another thing – others, and by extension – our family members, with the conscious goal of stirring them up to love and doing good deeds.
From time to time, our family members will experience disheartening frustrations, relational conflicts and crushing disappointments. Even as we help them to navigate these, God’s word is instructing us to consider how to stir them to be loving people who do good. When our children, grandchildren, husbands, or parents share their struggles, we need to consider how to stir them up to act in love and do good, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. For example, several days ago, after listening to my 21-year old daughter venting about a conflict she was having with a friend, I asked her: “How can you act in love and do good in this situation?” Of course, this is not the only response that came to my mind, but after empathizing with her feelings, I purposefully chose to use the opportunity to “spur her on toward love and good deeds” and to encourage her to honour God in her response.
Second: Do not give up getting together
We are born into families with an innate need to belong. Feeling connected is important for our motional health and wellbeing. Today’s culture relies heavily on technology to connect with people. Technology is a good, fast way of keeping in connection with family members. In some instances, for example, with family in the military, children away at college, and spouses away on business trips, it is the only way to connect. It allows for help with homework and solving personal problems where face-to-face connection is not possible. It is also useful in situations where communicating in person is awkward. The problem is that technology can give a false sense of being connected in the virtual world, while in reality, there exists loneliness and isolation.
These verses are calling us to nurture true emotional connections in our families. In our fast-paced society, fewer and fewer families are sitting down together to share meals, talk, problem solve or simply to have fun. To stay connected, we need to work against neglecting to come together. Outside of situations where our loved ones are unavoidably absent, we need to intentionally create opportunities or capitalize on spontaneous ones to come together. As I sat at my desk during the writing of this article, my daughter and I texted back and forth after she texted: “Drama, drama, drama lol.” Later that evening, I caught up with her as she was studying for an exam. I listened as she sorted through her thoughts and feelings; and I wiped her tears. Sitting across from her and watching her work through the emotions was priceless, compared to the emoticons and oxo xox that punctuated our online conversation, earlier. My point is, connect face-to-face with your wife, husband, grandchild, sister, brother and parents! Traditions such as meals, birthdays, holidays, game nights and family prayers are great opportunities to connect. A pat on the shoulder, when passing in the hallway or an “I love you” on the way out are meaningful connections. And don’t forget to punctuate face-to-face connections with hugs, kisses and laughter.
Third: Encourage one another
Many times we may not be thinking that our loved ones need encouragement. However, with all that life throws at us, we all need encouragement. A friendly word at the beginning or end of the day can go a long way! Unlike any other time in history, devices and applications such as smart phones, tablets, e-mail, texting, Facebook and video chat offer opportunities to give encouragement, even on the go. Consider how you can use these to encourage your family. At 8 p.m. last night, my 19-year old daughter sent me an email with a ten-page document attached to read before she submitted it to her professor by midnight, and the only words in her email were: “Mom, I have faith in you!” You bet I know she was trying to encourage me!
I encourage you to consider how to stir up your family members to be loving people who do good even in difficult situations. Use face-to-face encounters and technology to encourage and cheer them on. Although communicating through technology has its limitations, it is the next best thing to being there. Xox oxo!