“Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and a good hope. May he encourage your hearts and give you strength in every good thing you do or say.” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 )
Do you consider yourself a hugger? I walked into my house after a late night this week, and my nearly teenage son was walking by just as I entered. He stopped then leaned in to me and said, “Oh, hey Dad. I need a hug. I haven’t gotten one all day.” I, of course, gave him a big bear hug. My son is definitely a hugger. Whether we know it or not, we all need a hug. Sure hugs provide comfort when we are sad, but we now know that hugs reduce our stress, reduce our fears, help us show support, make us healthier and increase our happiness! Oh and just in case you’re using the old, “I’ll catch the flu if I give a hug” excuse, hugs actually make you more resilient to infection.
I think the reason that hugs are central to our social interaction is that it is a tangible way that we encourage one another. There are numerous scriptures that encourage us to, well, encourage one another! Encouragement that we offer to others actually flows through us from God, who encourages us. I like how Paul describes it to the church at Thessalonica, he reminds them of the “eternal encouragement” that God is offering to them. Picture in your mind Jesus standing next to you with his arm around you saying, “I am with you. I will never leave you or forsake you. You got this,” kind of encouragement. Paul is reminding the church that that’s the kind of encouragement God is offering to us and the kind we ought to offer to others “in every good thing you do or say.”
So let’s offer eternal encouragement to the people we encounter. It can be a kind word, a hand shake or better yet, a big bear hug. That’s the kind of encouragement that Jesus is offering you. Even if you are not a hugger, we all could use some encouragement. So, go ahead, spread some happiness.
Rev. Chad McSwain