Crying in front of a group of people is an unforgettable experience. The first few weeks into my freshman year of high school were painful, which made me anxious and isolated. One weekend girls’ retreat, I finally broke down crying.
The girls prayed for me, but even as they did, there was a little voice in the back of the head nagging at me. Would anyone remember me after they all said “amen”?
A few weeks later, one of the girls approached me. I remembered she had been sitting next to me on the couch that day. She handed me a note. Curiosity piqued, I thanked her and she left me to read it.
Dear Emily, it said. This note is to let you know you’ve been in my prayers…
I was surprised and thankful because I hadn’t thought anyone would have remembered me. Someone I hardly knew took the time to handwrite a letter, complete with Bible verses, to me.
For an anxious person, this was a blessing. For someone who was convinced I was alone, this was a reminder that I was more than the shy girl at the edge of the social circle. This letter stole power from the lie that no one noticed me, the lie that no one wanted to be my friend, and the lie that no one cared.
Someone noticed me. Someone wanted to be my friend. Someone cared.
It wasn’t the letter itself, kind as it was, that uplifted me, it was the action behind it. The time taken to write it, the initiative to hand it to me. This is the power of reaching out, it’s not the performance or result, it’s the motive and initiative.
Since then, I have never doubted the power of reaching out because of how it blessed me. What about you? Has anyone ever reached out to you that way?
I invite you to think of someone in your life to reach out to. It could be someone you know or someone you don’t know. It could be someone older than you or younger. It could even be a family member. While you think of someone, remember these four things about reaching out: awkwardness, humility, gifts, and prayer.
#1. God uses our awkwardness
Reaching out is awkward. I know we wish and maybe even wait until we have the perfect thing to say to the hurting person in our life. But having the right words isn’t the point, it’s the motive. For me, it wasn’t the letter, it was the thoughtfulness to hand it to me.
When the girl gave me the letter, she later confessed that it was awkward! When I’ve reached out to other people in my life, it is awkward! But there is this hidden beauty in awkwardness, we realize how little control we have over the situation, and it pushes us to rely on God.
When I feel afraid to reach out because of awkwardness, I think about 2 Timothy 1:7. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self discipline.” Rely on the Holy Spirit and reach out to others.
Awkward moments are inevitable, so learn to sit with the awkward. Some wonderful friendships have come out of awkward conversations with awkward pauses and awkward smiles, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
#2. Stay humble
Don’t be kind to others to make yourself look good. Jesus says,“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:2 (NIV)
People who do good deeds to get attention from people are not acting in love and obedience to God. The attention they get is the only reward they will ever receive. Instead, reach out personally and remember that your focus is to share Christlike love with others, not to make yourself look good.
#3. Know your strengths and use them
You don’t have to be someone you’re not to reach out. You don’t have to be a great writer to give someone a card or a motivational speaker to say “I care.” Use the gifts you already have to be a light in other’s lives.
God gives us each special abilities to serve (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12) so think about how you can use these gifts for others. The girl who reached out to me wrote me a letter, since I’m a writer, that’d be my go-to as well. What about you? How can you use your gifts?
Prayer reminds us that we’re not alone. God hears our prayers and Psalm 33:15 says “He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” God knows everything, our motives and the hurt that the person we’re trying to reach is going through. It makes sense to pray, to ask for courage to reach out and for the person we want to reach.
What about you? Has anyone ever encouraged you? Has God worked through your actions to encourage someone else?