Although Treasures of Encouragement: Women Helping Women is not primarily about author Sharon W. Betters, the book grew out of her situation. Her teenage son and his friend were killed in a car accident within minutes of leaving the Betters’ home in 1993.
The book’s theme verse comes from Isaiah 45:3, where Sharon found hope in her deep grief: “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” Though God sometimes leads through dark valleys, treasures are there that can’t be found anywhere else.
The healing balm of encouragement eventually stopped the spread of despair’s infection and began replacing it with hope’s healthy glow. God’s Word was the healing balm, and God’s people applied it lavishly to sooth the searing pain in my soul. Biblical encouragement is soul work. God unleashes its mysterious power every time a child of God follows the Holy Spirit’s direction and steps into the suffering of another person (pp. 9-10).
Each chapter starts with one or two women’s testimonies about being either on the receiving or giving end of encouragement.
Throughout the book. two points are repeatedly emphasized. First, encouraging someone else spiritually is the outgrowth of our own walk with the Lord and time spent in His Word. Second, because we have those resources–God’s Word to inform and guide us and His Spirit within us—we have what we need to encourage others.
Part 1 of the book explores thinking Biblically: defining and exploring what encouragement involves and what our responsibilities are as believers to each other.
To ease the guilt of noninvolvement, we charge the church with the job of meeting needs. We forget that we are the church! (p. 18)
Biblical encouragers know that their role is part of a process; it is seldom, if ever, the solution. They understand God is doing soul work through the interaction of members of His body. They recognize that He uses circumstances to strip people of obstacles that keep them from knowing Him, and so they ask themselves, How can I help this person through the peeling process of sanctification without hindering what the Holy Spirit is doing?
Often we want to rush into a difficult situation and make everything better. But that is not God’s method. He uses the rough spots of life to sand away the rough spots in character so that the reflection of “Christ in us” becomes increasingly clear (p. 73).
Because of who our Father is, and because of the riches of our inheritance, we always have something to offer to others (p. 37).
Part 2 covers living Biblically: the necessity of prayer, listening well, helpful vs. non-helpful words, spiritual mothering, pursuing restoration rather than judgment, Biblical exhortation, letting God use your spiritual gifts in large or small ways, offering practical help.
The church, like a home, is not a place where perfect people enjoy each other’s company. It’s a place where spiritual nurture, training, and discipline help imperfect people take on the image of their perfect heavenly Father. The church is not a place for hibernation; it’s a place where we learn, grow, take risks, make mistakes, and get up and try again (p. 99).
Will it be easy? No. Initially, obedience is hard, but in the long run, disobedience is harder (p. 131).
When we have a clear picture of our own sinfulness and inadequacies, we may conclude that we are unfit to carry the great gospel message. But our wrong conclusions will not thwart God’s purposes. For reasons we do not understand, God has chosen us to spread His message of hope and redemption (p. 198).
Spiritual mothering often happens more around a kitchen table that in a structured study (p. 213).
Though the book can be read by individuals, it’s designed for a twelve-week group study. Each chapter ends with six day’s work of questions or exercises. On one hand, I didn’t want to take twelve weeks to read the book. But on the other, I didn’t want to skip over the “homework” between chapters. I felt the time exploring further or meditating on each chapter’s truths would help the ideas take firmer root. I did sometimes combine some of the individual days’ exercises, though.
One appendix shares 50 very practical ideas for extending encouragement to others. All 50 won’t appeal to or be possible for everyone, but they give a rich variety to choose from.
I appreciated the address to older and younger women in the church with encouragement to settle the differences that can sometimes arise between the two groups (pp. 137-138).
This book was originally published twenty-five years ago. It was updated and reprinted in 2021.
Just occasionally, I found the tone in the book got a little more authoritarian than encouraging. One example from the exercise questions after the first chapter: “Who will you encourage today? Write a brief statement about how Christ, through you, can encourage that person. Now do it!” (p. 26).
But overall, I found much good food for thought on both the necessity to be an encourager and the ways God can work in and through us. This is a book I am sure I will return to in the future.
(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)