Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.
(1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Friend to Friend
The red bird gently landed on the tree branch in front of the kitchen window.
It was definitely a holy moment. I didn’t really know why. I just felt it.
“What was that all about?” I finally asked.
My sweet friend sighed, still staring at the red bird.
“Mary, it has been a really hard week. This morning, I couldn’t take it any more. I lost it, and just ranted and raved, pouring out all of my anger and frustration to God!” Tears began to down her cheeks. I hugged her … and then the sobs began. When she had cried enough, Carla said, “God sent me this red bird as a reminder that everything is going to be okay. Kind of like a rainbow at the end of a storm.”
I still didn’t get it.
“The red bird,” she said. And pointed to the beautiful creature still perched on the branch. The bird was now looking at us. It was almost weird. No. It was officially weird. Since when do birds just sit on branches and stare at people?
“Red birds are my sign,” Carla explained. “Every time I am discouraged or having a really hard time, I will inevitably see a red bird and remember the promises of God. The red bird reminds me that He is faithful and that He will come through for me. I really can’t remember how it all started. I just know God gave me red birds as a sign of encouragement from God.”
Interesting. I had come to see Carla, looking for encouragement and comfort … for me! Carla wasn’t the only one who had muddled through a hard week.
Dan and I were living in Nacogdoches, Texas in a roach-infested apartment while he finished college. I worked for the welfare department and absolutely hated my job. I won’t go into all of the reasons why I hated my job, but let’s just say I did not relish trying to prove that most of my cases were fraudulent. I was supposed to be teaching sweet innocent little second grade children, but there were no openings in the local school district. And it was just for one year. How bad could it be? I quickly found out it could be really bad. Rumor was that one of the clients whose claim I had denied was in town looking for me … and she had a gun. Not. Kidding.
Thanksgiving was only a week away. All of our friends were going home to visit their families. Dan and I did not have the money to go home, and I only had one day off anyway.
My mother was battling cancer.
I had a cyst on an ovary … and the doctor was not sure what we were facing.
I had a whole list of questions and fears and doubts … and I really didn’t know what to do with any of them. I was scared, tired, and homesick.
I was having what I thought was a well deserved pity party when Carla whirled around, her face awash with tears and her eyes dancing with joy. She grabbed me in a fierce hug and said, “You know what? You and Dan are spending Thanksgiving with us! And I am giving you my red bird! Yep! God just told me that from now on, when you see a red bird, it is Him telling you that everything is going to be okay.”
Okay. No one had ever given me a red bird before. But it seemed to work for Carla, so I hugged her back and thanked her for sharing.
Now I know that grounded believers are supposed to walk by faith and not need signs from God. When trouble rocks their world, they simply stand firm in their faith.
But I am being honest here. There are times when I need a reminder that God really is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He would do in His Word – and that He would do those things … for me. I need encouragement.
And God is faithful to send that encouragement through His Word … through times of gut-wrenching prayer … through faithful friends … through my husband … through women to whom I minister and through women with whom I minister… and yes, even through red birds.
He understands my pain. He is with me and He is for me. It doesn’t really matter how He does it. God will always find a way to get to me … to show me just how much He loves me. And He will do the same for you.
Father, thank You for the gift of encouragement You constantly give me. When I am tired, You give me the strength to go on. When I am discouraged, You give me hope. When I am afraid, You are my peace. I praise You for your love and faithfulness to me, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
If you need encouragement, think of one person with whom you can share that need and make a plan to do so. Then look for someone in your life who needs encouragement and find a way to encourage that person. I would love to hear about your experience. Email me!
More from the Girlfriends
Encouragement is like a boomerang. When thrown correctly, it will come back to you. Godly encouragement does not wait for an invitation to work. It looks for the opportunity to work. Need help? Check out Mary’s new Joy Journal. We can learn to be joyful. We just have to make the choice to search for God’s handprints in our daily life. This spiral bound journal will help guide you to a place of contentment and joy.