Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and cheerier by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.
As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn’t hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days and weeks passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and couldn’t see the wall. She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”
Encouraging others is a vital ministry that every believer in Christ can and should do. I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Even though he was sitting in prison and benefiting from Timothy’s fellowship, Paul planned to send him to minister to the Philippians and learn how they were doing. He chose Timothy because all others focused on themselves rather than on Christ (Philippians 2:21). A good report from him would encourage Paul (v. 19) Epaphroditus was also a man who practiced selfless encouragement. He was a representative from the Philippian church. While visiting and helping Paul he had become sick and nearly died. His greatest concern was not over his own critical illness, but that his home church had heard about it and he didn’t want them to be unduly distressed (v. 26). We see in Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus the secret of true encouragement – self-giving without self-pity. It is clearly self-forgetfulness. My friend do you want to be an encouraging Christian? If so, remember the ultimate source of encouragement is not people but God. Go to Him for fresh encouragement, then go out and encourage others because there is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled the pleasure. If you want to feel rich, just count all of the things you have that money can’t buy.
Even if you have nothing else to give, you can give encouragement.