Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 ESV)
Last week, I heard from a friend with devastating news to share. The kind of thing that no one should ever have to face, where the sorrow is unimaginable and the emotional ache seeps into your physical being, taking up residence in heart, mind, body, and soul. I immediately began sobbing at her news, utterly heartbroken for her. So much tragedy, so much loss.
A few days later, a friend texted to let me know that something we have been praying for their family for years has finally come to fruition. My heart burst with excitement for my sweet friend. This answer to prayer brings such relief and will make life both practically and emotionally easier for their family. So much joy and gratitude.
Both extremes exist in the lives of our friends and family, and in our own life as well. At times we are facing hardship and other times we are filled to the brim with joy. Sometimes weeping and rejoicing walk side by side in our days. It sounds strange, but my guess is that you know what I mean.
As Christians, we are called to life together. What affects one person, affects the entire body of Christ (1 Cor 12:26). And Paul writes in Romans that we are to celebrate and rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and at the same time we are to cry, weep, and mourn for those in deep sorrow. This is one way that we demonstrate love and care for one another, which is the very thing that Jesus said would mark His disciples and proclaim to the world that we belong to Him (John 13:35).
Perhaps at this point, you are thinking of people you have wept and celebrated with, and people who have done so for you as well. Those moments are often etched in our memories because they are times where we were not alone in our sorrow or joy, and that makes a difference. I’m going to challenge us a bit this week though. You see, often it is simply second nature to rejoice with and cry with those close to us. We have walked life with them and care deeply for their circumstances. We love them and want to help or throw a party, depending on the situation. But what happens when someone who is difficult to love has an accomplishment to celebrate? Or someone you are a teensy bit jealous of seems to be thriving in an area that you struggle with? What is your reaction when a person with whom you have friction obtains that one thing that you desperately desire yourself? Do we find it more difficult to rejoice with these people? Confession? I often have. Instead of lifting them up and celebrating, I tend to turn my focus on myself and play the comparison game. I make no excuses for this – it is petty, sinful, and flat-out wrong.
Alternatively, have you ever found it hard to “weep with those who weep”? Perhaps their pain seems unbearable and you just don’t know how to help. Maybe you are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Maybe you are unable to put yourself in their shoes and as a result, develop a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality toward them (unspoken, of course). Maybe you just don’t want to feel sad because it’s too hard. Or perhaps you aren’t particularly close to this person so you aren’t sure what to do.
Friends, I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve fought back jealousy as I have watched someone receive (well-deserved) praise and felt invisible myself. I’ve heard of hardships people have and been paralyzed by uncertainty as to how to love them. Those feelings though? They don’t have to ultimately drive our actions. Love is a choice. We can choose to step out in love and let God have the rest. In the preceding verses, Paul lays out further instructions on how believers should relate to one another. He says that love should be sincere (v 9) and that we should love one another with brotherly affection (v 10), among other things.
As we tackle another week, let’s be intentional about caring for the hurting and celebrating with the joyful. Let’s be practical. Pray for others. Send them a text or card with encouragement. Drop off dinner or chocolate or coffee. Take them out to celebrate or plop on their couch with take-out as they cry. Let’s seek to build up the body of Christ through purposeful acts of sincere love and care.
Before you click the back button on your browser, take out your planner (if you’re old-school like me) or phone and add a reminder to touch base with a friend. Come up with a practical way to love them this week. Now, add a reminder to do the same thing for someone in your life who is harder for you to rejoice with, or that you feel uncertain about how to love through a difficult time. Let’s do this. I promise you that it makes a difference to those on the receiving end. And if we believe Jesus, it makes a difference to a watching world as well. They will know us by our love. They will see a glimpse of our precious Savior. Love to you, friends!