Awhile back I was feeling super frustrated. There were some folks close to me who seemed to constantly be getting in the way of my plans and my desires, whether unconsciously or consciously, intentionally or naively. It was all I could do to keep from shouting out at them in frustration, opposing them in the same way they were opposing me, or writing them off as irrelevant and useless altogether.
Suffice to say, none of those options are truly available to followers of Christ.
Having tried to reason with them (to no avail), I was left with simply tolerating them. I told myself that God was sanctifying me through their behavior, that this was the means through which he was growing me into a better human being, and that so long as I conducted myself appropriately and acted in love, God would vindicate me in the end.
Thing is, this nonsense went on for a long, long time. And I have a temper. I was really angry all the time.
But no one saw it. Or, at least, no one outside of my wife and closest friend knew I was frustrated with anything. I never lost my cool. I never raised my voice. I never said anything I'd later regret. I managed myself perfectly.
But it still sucked, and I wanted it to be over. I wanted victory, and it couldn't come fast enough. I began to despair that I would ever be rid of this ceaseless annoyance, this constant animosity.
Then one day, my friend John came to me and said, "hey man, I know what you're going through, and I know it's tough, but I want you to know you're doing really well with it. God is proud of you."
His words gave me renewed vigor to keep on doing what I had been doing. Since I couldn't fix the problem, my best option was to suffer well. And even though I was (quite frankly) sick to death of putting up with it all, my friend's words allowed me to continue doing what I needed to do in order to see it through to the end and finish well.
Do you see?
I was longing for victory, but I already had it. I was experiencing victory in the midst of all the garbage I had to endure because the Spirit of God was, in fact, sanctifying me through those miserable moments. God's work was being done in me in the middle of it all. It wasn't pleasant, but I was growing stronger and more self-controlled every minute. But I needed my friend in order to realize it. I needed someone to come up to me and say, "good job, don't quit."
We have a responsibility to each other to congratulate and validate and authenticate a life well lived. We need to give each other kudos, especially in the suck, so we don't lose heart. Of course we're not trying to live righteously in order to impress others, but we do need the affirmation of other people from time to time to let us know our efforts aren't wasted.
God speaks to us through other people. When they see our goodness, and tell us, it's like God is telling us too.
Consequently, we need to do a better job of seeing the good in others and telling them about it, so they are encouraged too.
Speak up. No one should be the gag in the mouth of God.