“Lean on Me” and Encouragement for Mañana

I love music. It speaks to me. It encourages me. It inspires me. It calms me. It energizes me. I have a playlist for just about any mood. I have a God Tunes Playlist that I never tire of. But, I also have music from many other genres that speak into my life. I confess – Pitbull and Christina Aguilera have pulled me out of a funk and gotten me going on multiple occasions.

The musicians on the worship team at Christ Church Santa Fe do an awesome rendition of “Lean on Me” (originally written, recorded and released by Bill Withers in 1972). If you haven’t heard this song in a while, you gotta click on the link to hear Withers do his thing. I was so pumped the first time I ever heard our talented folks perform this classic song during a worship service. I wish you could hear their version too. I was moved by their insight to use this Billboard No. 1 hit (long before I was a twinkle in my parents eyes, I might add) as a worship song.

“Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on”

What great lyrics, huh? No doubt, we all have pain. We all have sorrow. In addition to leaning on God, we need people in our lives to lean on. And friends will need to lean on us too. I personally can’t imagine navigating through life’s twists, turns, challenges, and sorrows without the amazing people who have given me their ear and shared their wisdom, encouragement, and shoulder to lean on. I can only pray that God equips me with the ability to reciprocate in a way that my friends can lean on me too.

In March of 2013, I read a really great devotional, She Reads Truth: Philippians, about the Apostle Paul and his gift of encouragement. The writer shared that through the book of Philippians, Paul displays an “overarching and very apparent theme of joy, gratitude and prayer for others.” For me, there is no question that Paul is the kind of person I would want to have as my friend. The devotional continued, “He is thinking big-picture, long-term, Kingdom work. And on his heart is the business of encouragement.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be that kind of friend? One who doesn’t get bogged down by the details, worked up about injustices…the kind of friend who can really just help others to see the big picture and encourage them to endure. The tune and lyrics to “Lean on Me” stuck with me all day yesterday. When I thought about what would make me be the kind of friend that someone would want to lean on, Paul came to mind. I remembered the She Reads Truth devotional that touched me over a year ago. Here’s my favorite part:

“He doesn’t tell them to expect things to get easier or better or simpler. He just encourages them where they are, with a sure confidence to remember the bigger picture to persevere. That all the good that has begun in that community is pointing to something greater the day of Jesus Christ.”

Paul doesn’t sugar coat the situatin, but reminds us of the Truth that all that has begun leads to a greater day in Christ (Philippians 1:6). In the first stanza of “Lean on Me”, Bill Withers wrote that if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow. Neither the Apostle Paul nor Bill Withers are trying to be like Annie – “The sun will come out tomorrow…” They are talking big-picture here. In Santa Fe, ‘mañana’ often does NOT literally mean ‘tomorrow’. It just means later. Paul doesn’t promise things will get easier the day after today. But he does provide great encouragement for his friends.

I’m so thankful for my friends who have been there for me to help me see the big picture at times when I’ve needed someone to lean on. I was inspired by the She Reads Truth devotional last Spring, to think about how I can be a better encourager. Perhaps this is a season of leaning for you. If so, choose shoulders wisely, and lean on. But chances are that someone you interact with this week will need a should to lean on. Please join me in considering ways to be an encourager. I think it’s fair to say that if one wants to be in “the business of encouragement”, like Paul, then a theme of “joy, gratitude, and prayer for others” is a pretty good place to start.

“You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on”

Speaking of songs – “Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.” – Isaiah 49:13. I am thankful for the sweet shoulders I have to lean on when I need support. But I’m even more grateful and humbled that the Lord of the Universe, the One who created the mountains I see out my living room window, is my greatest encourager. He delights when I am still, when I seek His Presence, when I seek comfort and guidance from Him, first. This very God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” –Psalm 32:8. That’s the kind of person I want to have as my friend too…One who has His loving eye on me and invites me to lean on Him any time.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,”…” –Hebrews 3:13

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad.” –Proverbs 12:25

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” –Philippians 2:3-4