Rachael Ray’s Kids’ Cook-Off has been a favorite show to watch in our house. Season after season I see ten year olds cooking better than I ever could. They get a lot of help from Rachael as she mentors the kids along from episode to episode. Her experience in the kitchen and on television helps the kids with their cooking and in presenting their food on camera.
But that’s not the best aspect of the mentoring. The best part is the encouragement. To Rachael, every kid is beautiful or handsome and she loves their smile. Every single one.
You might think that this unnecessarily focuses on appearance, but remember that this is a television competition and the last thing one of these kids needs to worry about is whether they are good looking enough. They get that from society all the time. But not from Rachael. To her, every kid is beautiful.
One way to understand the word “encourage” is by looking at its antonym “dishearten”. To encourage someone is to hearten them, while to discourage someone is to dishearten them. If you were to dishearten someone literally, you’d take their heart right out of their chest.
To discourage someone does that figuratively, making the person feel as if they have no heart left to carry on. Encouragement, on the other hand, puts the heart right back into someone. After all, the root of the word “courage” is cor, the Latin word for heart.
The ultimate heartener is God himself. The one who created your heart also gives you heart:
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror. (Psalm 10:17-18.)
God likes it when we put the heart back into people, too.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11.)
In fact, one of the earliest Christians was so good at heartening people that the Apostles changed his name from Joseph, meaning “increase” (see Genesis 30:22-24), to Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” (Acts 4:36.)
Heartening the Little Children
Of all the Bible passages about children, this one is probably the most familiar:
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16.)
Have you ever seen the face of a child when they see their parent getting treated poorly? Confused, embarrassed, fearful – all of this must have played through the hearts of those children who had been brought to meet Jesus when they saw the disciples rebuking their parents. You don’t have to imagine what Jesus was feeling at that moment since it’s right there in the text: “he was indignant.”
Then we read Jesus’ words: “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” His actions soon matched his words as he gathered the children in his arms and blessed them. These children who had suffered alongside their parents with the disciples’ rebuke are now sitting in God’s lap, hearing his blessings on them, being gathered to the one who created them. They might not understand all that, but it’s true none the less and the truth of God’s love is something little children can understand.
Encouragement is an Act of Love
Rachael Ray takes every opportunity to encourage the kids on her show, and Barnabas made encouragement such a part of his life that he became known for it above all else, but they’re not the only ones given the opportunity to encourage people. What opportunity has God given you to put the heart back into someone recently? Or perhaps the question is: when have you recently been heartened by someone God put in your life?
Whether you lack heart or are full of heart at the moment, look to God to guide you in seeking his heart. His is a heart of comfort and he comforts not only you, but through you he also comforts those around you.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)
Are you in need of comfort? Can you comfort someone else? In either case, take heart. God has gathered you in his arms, child of God.