In our faith walk, we all come to know people who are very special to us. I like to refer to each one as “my Barnabas.” In Acts 4:36, the disciples became acquainted with Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, and gave him the nickname Barnabas, meaning the Son of Encouragement. He befriended Saul/Paul when he was converted even though the other disciples feared and distrusted him. Barnabas witnessed to Paul’s conversion and preaching on behalf of Christ. Oh, what a joy to have an ally or friend like him! We all need such a true friend, who will encourage us in our faith and service to the Lord.

My husband, Jim, has been Barnabas for me throughout our marriage. He always builds me up and verbalizes his confidence in me to accomplish the task at hand. How blessed I am to have his support! We all experience days when self doubt creeps in or Satan tries to attack and destroy progress in our Christian walk. Having someone “who has my back” close to me each day makes my path easier to follow. I know God is directing my path, but it truly helps to have Jim there to cheer me on as obstacles appear.

Other people come and go, taking on the role of Barnabas in my life. I am sure the Lord has sent each one at just the right moment. I can remember the phone call from a friend, who happened to be a minister, the day after my dad passed away. I thought he had heard about my loss, but, no, he said that he had thought of me and felt he should call. He’d been nudged by God or the Holy Spirit. I trust this gentleman and know that I can rely on him for scriptural advice. He has left Conway, but we still keep in touch and knowing I can reach out when I need to do so brings me comfort. I’ve only done this once in the past few years, but that lifeline is so important to me.

I was touched yesterday by another Barnabas, someone I met through Methodist Lay Servant ministries. We have not spent much time together, but the time we have spent has been quality time. We keep in touch through email and Facebook. We have both faced problems in our church families and have spoken freely to one another concerning these difficulties. This special person decided to take a 40 day Lenten journey this year, thanking people who have influenced his walk of faith. Early in the morning, I received such a message. It arrived on a day when I was feeling a bit low and discouraged. I felt surprise, appreciation and love when I truly needed it although I didn’t feel I really deserved it. It was like getting an affirmation from God, almost like a hug from our dear Lord.

Over the weekend, a beautiful young woman in our church family lost her life. We know she loved the Lord and is with Him now, but it is difficult because of the eleven year old daughter and husband she has left behind. God is in control and we look forward to His healing, comfort and peace. We hope to see something positive come out of this loss, but it will be in His time and not ours. I am comforted by the picture of her that I will always hold in my heart. I see her with a smile, offering a hug to my husband, myself or someone else along with a kind word. I saw the sincerity in her eyes and don’t we say “the eyes are the window to the soul?” Hers were filled with love, Christ’s love! Although I only knew her for too short a time, I will never forget that smile. It made my day and will continue to cheer me in my memory of this sister in Christ!

Encouragement can be offered in different ways. It can be a verbal or written comment or a simple gesture like a smile or hug. Having a bad day or moment? A smile freely given can lift that cloud. It is an expression of love and compassion and an act of encouragement and kindness, almost like saying “Have a good day!” Barnabas voiced his support of Paul. He used the gift of encouragement to share God’s love with others as the author of the book of Hebrews encouraged all believers to do in Hebrews 4:13 and 10:25. May each of us in the body of Christ be a Barnabas to those we meet!