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Over spring break my junior year in college, I took a trip with a few buddies to Edinburgh, Scotland. We had a buddy who was studying there for the semester, and it made for a good excuse to travel halfway around the world to a country none of us had ever visited.

We saw the sites in London, stayed in hostels, visited the most famous golf course in the world, and climbed the highest mountain in the UK, the Ben Nevis. Standing a glorious 4,409 feet high, we knew we were going to dominate this mountain. When you’re a college student from Tennessee, that’s what you do.

My hiking attire:

  • A gray GAP, lightweight hoodie
  • Jeans
  • Tennis shoes

Between the 5 of us hiking that day, we brought 3 bottles of water, 4 energy bars, fruit we’d taken from the hostel where we’d just stayed, and a couple of handfuls of granola.

We weren’t really clued in to our unpreparedness, even though the hostel owner gave us that look, and said, “You’re going to climb the Ben in that?” Dumb, not-scared-of-anything college students, we pressed on.

About an hour into our ascent, I remember passing this couple who looked very “official.” They were decked out in North Face gear, rugged-looking boots, backpacks that could withstand a hurricane, and canteens of water that kept their water at just the perfect temperature for days. And they matched.

“You guys making it ok?” with the same look that the lady at the hostel had given us over breakfast. Apparently our “gear” gave us away. We all glanced at each other as if to say, “Don’t you say a word about how dumb we feel.”

“Yep! Ship shape!” I said. “We almost there?”

They gave a chuckle and continued trudging downwards past us.

When we finally made it to the top, we looked even more out of place. There were guys with ice picks. People donning full-face masks to keep out the cold. And guys with gloves so thick it warmed my hands just to look at them. I cinched my hoodie a little tighter around my face, and drank in the most beautiful site my eyes had ever beheld. Everywhere I turned, making sure not to slip off of the snowy ledge, I saw beautiful Scotland countryside. Mountain after mountain, separated by green valleys, sheep grazing to their heart’s content. Turns out, we crested the top on the only day that entire month where the clouds broke. It was as if God was smiling on our little ragtag crew.

All we could stand was ~30 minutes. We were all freezing. The snow had melted into my shoes, and I could feel the blisters pulsating. Time to head down. Most people gingerly and carefully made their way down the first 200 feet, which was covered with snow. Not our crew, though. We dropped to a sitting position and slid down. What took most people 10 minutes took us less than 15 seconds. I had to dig my heels in to keep from careening off of the side of the mountain (that’s no joke…I really thought I was going to be with Jesus in that moment), but we’d started our journey back.

I was miserable, but I tried to not let that show in my face.

Every person I passed, I’d give them a smile, and a quick,

  • “Hey, you’re almost there!”
  • “It’s worth the climb!”
  • “Don’t quit now!”
  • “Trust me, you’ll be glad you did this!”
  • “Just a few more bends and you’ll get the most beautiful view you’ve ever seen!”

With almost every person I spoke this to (minus the one guy that gave me the sink eye), I saw their face brighten a bit. I saw their shoulders straighten ever so slightly. They would stand up a little straighter. For some, the corners of their lips would curl in a tiny smile.

That’s what encouragement does. It speaks hope and life into places where death would love to take control. It breathes steps for someone else, and releases unknown burdens. It says,

  • This fight is worth it.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Your family needs you!
  • Your faith is worth it!
  • The prize is coming! 
  • Not much further!
  • Now is not the time to quit!
  • I’ve been where you’re going…don’t stop now!

Somebody you know needs encouragement. Right now. They’re on the mountain, and they’re about to quit. They’ve stopped for a break, and they’re not going to start going again until they hear from you. They don’t know that, just ahead, the clouds are breaking. Only you know that it’s just a few more cut backs before they reach the top. Only you know the view ahead is breathtaking.

You may not be a mountain climber. I’m sure not. But a timely word of encouragement can change someone’s life.

Who can you encourage today?

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13