Summary: Christian encouragement does not shower us with pity; it is support needed to stand up and get beyond the current situation.
There is an old proverb about the leader of a city who would take daily walks to gain peace of mind and inspiration from nature. One day, the burdens of his position had his mind more disturbed than normal and the old man found himself walking much further than usual. Eventually he stopped to rest and as he was regaining his strength he spotted a great tree, which easily towered above all the rest. The tree was a wonder to behold and it lured the old man to investigate it in more detail.
The man continued to follow the path he was on until he finally stood underneath the great tree. Its branches spread so wide that the tree could easily have provided shade for more than 1000 horse. As the man stood gazing up at the majesty of the tree he wondered: "What kind of tree is this; its timber must be quite extraordinary." His mind raced with thoughts of how he could impress the people of his village with the story of this tree and all the wealth it would bring the village by cutting it down.
But, as he continued to study the tree he noticed that the branches were too gnarled and twisted to be of use for lumber. He took a closer look at the trunk of the tree and he could see where it had been split and damaged many time in the past; thus, making it worthless for lumber as well. The man exclaimed: “This wretched tree is completely useless. Why in the world did it ever grow so large?”
In disgust the man sat down under the tree and reflected on its worthlessness. As he sat there in the deep cool shade of the mighty tree, a slow smile crept across his face. He thought: “The tree grew to this mighty size because it is useless to those who would have cut it down. Its beauty and great shade would not have been if man had found the tree useful. Now, what seems useless to man is exactly the kind of thing that God puts to great use." The old gnarled tree became a great encouragement to the man and from its inspiration he found himself looking for Godly value in people; not worldly value. As a result his village was filled with peace and prospered.
I suppose life can be a bowl of cherries for some people, but for most of us Christians life is a challenge. After all, it was the Apostle Peter who told us (1Pe 5:8): “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Paul said that we are in a daily fight against the powers of darkness. So you see, it is understandable if a Christian sometimes feels that life is down right chaotic and confusing. Perhaps we can even reach the point where life seems to be mean and dangerous. Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 6:12): “Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.” Paul told the Ephesians (6:12): “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” So, in spite of all the warm and fuzzy sermons we may hear, life can be a challenge; life can get us down; and when this happens we all can use a bit of good honest Christian encouragement.