Note from Jim: I am grateful to Nick Pitts, our Director of Cultural Engagement, for writing today’s Cultural Commentary. You can subscribe to his Daily Briefing, an overview of the news with biblical insights, by clicking here.
Teachers’ significance is only exceeded by their patience. Holding one of the most important jobs in our communities today, teachers see potential, put up with antics, and relentlessly seek to bring out the best in every student. We may never know their full value, nor will we ever adequately express our appreciation for teachers. Nevertheless, they continue to work diligently in the present, yet not always seeing the fruit of their labor. However, the people at SoulPancake have sought to change this.
SoulPancake invited five teachers together to share their struggles and difficulties. Little did they know that instead of only sharing struggles, former students surprised their teachers by reading letters describing the impact their teachers made in their lives. The video has since gone viral, joining the likes of the color of a dress, Ken Bone, and the keyboard cat.
Side note: the dress is blue.
The classroom is where curiosity meets knowledge. But lurking in the shadows is discouragement. The teacher is the caring curator who leads students on the journey to truth. Unfortunately, myself included, some of us weren’t the most willing participants. I surprised my teachers when I actually turned in my homework on time and didn’t talk for the entire class time.
Incidents such as this, among other things, can often bring discouragement. But what sets apart the teacher is their ability to get the best even when we give them the worst. The Cubs may have won the pennant, but day in and day out teachers win small victories for our future.
I am forever indebted to Mrs. Hall, Dr. Speck, and Dr. Welty. I almost failed kindergarten, but Mrs. Hall’s careful attention to me and care for me changed me. Dr. Speck’s demand for excellence made me want to be better even if my grade couldn’t get any higher. And Dr. Welty’s love for the Scriptures saturated his lectures on Western philosophy and forever changed the way I look for signposts of eternity in the everyday. Despite discouragement, they refused to settle.
But discouragement is not limited to teachers. It can be found at work and in the home, knowing no bounds. Discouragement can greet you first thing in the morning and be the last words you hear at night as you replay the day. All of us are intimately acquainted with our weaknesses. So when we experience discouragement, it only confirms what we think to be true. We are our own worst enemy (James 4:1).
The enemy uses discouragement as a farmer works with a plow. But instead of breaking the ground to sow seed, he attempts to break our spirit with seeds of doubt. As a dear friend once said, “Satan shouts and God whispers.”
But God’s whisper is the same voice that created something from nothing and brought life from death. His volume is not proportional to his power. Right now, God the Son is at the right hand of the Father interceding on your behalf (Hebrews 7:25). God the Spirit is at work inside of you petitioning the Father with groans deeper than words (Romans 8:26). He has called you the apple of his eye (Psalm 17:8). His love for you and belief in you is not dependent upon your obedience to him (2 Timothy 2:13). As those who have been called to follow him, our words should echo his.
We live in interesting days drenched in discouragement. Our culture may be running away from God, but our words should lovingly remind our neighbors that God is not giving up on them. Kindness, not judgment, is what leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). Words of encouragement are seeds of life that produce plants of hope. These plants remind us that things are not as bad as we think.
Today, what would it look like if 113,000 people from 203 countries decided to be voices of encouragement? America would be brighter, the world better, but the dress would still be blue.
Publication date: October 24, 2016
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