Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Romans 12:15
One of the best parts of being a Jesus follower is the community. Community is such a marvelous treasure that God has gifted us! God tells us to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves” (Hebrews 10:25) and when we do this, when we spend time together, we form relationships. Some of these relationships are acquaintances, some are friendships, and some go to the very next level that Anne of Green Gables coined “kindred spirits.” Regardless of what our level of companionship with our neighbor is, in this verse we are commanded to weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice.
Overall, I would say that, as humans, the latter part of the commandment comes pretty naturally for us. I would say that we are fairly good (no, make that great) at weeping with people when they weep. When there is a tough phone call received bearing news that is hard to take, quite often there is an inundation of love and support that is poured out from those that love the loved one going through a hard time. Cancer? We’ve got you covered! We will weep and then, we will wipe our noses and bring you a meal, and watch your kids, and clean your house, and pray for you, and send you a card, text, email, direct message, or come to your house and visit you so that you know that you are not alone. You lost a child? Once again, we will be there for you. We will sob out our hearts over your heartbreak. Then, we will put ourselves in our cars and come to the viewing and send you some flowers and make you so much food you won’t even know where to put it all or if you will EVER be able to eat it all. Even if it is a heartache that is less drastic, like for example, if it just plain feels hard to be a momma. Listen, sweet friend, you will be hard pressed not to find another momma that won’t wrap her arms around you and say, “I feel ya! Let your tears flow! And I’ll let mine!”
Friends, we are good at this!
We are so incredibly good at this! Keep up the fantastic work! However, there are two things that I want to point out about weeping when others weep.
Don’t forget their pain!
Don’t forget their pain! We are so very gifted at being there for people when they are hurting in the moment! We do it exceptionally well! However, while time does heal wounds, there are still scars that remain and there are still memories that can still make water drip from our eyes, just when we least expect it. So, even when time has passed and it seems like our friends that went through a difficult time have gotten back to “normal” (or at least new normal) don’t forget their pain. Don’t forget that they still have an empty seat at their table each night for supper. Don’t forget that their hair is different now than it was pre-chemo. Don’t forget that their momma isn’t just a phone call away anymore. Don’t forget that their husband’s new job is not as enjoyable as the job he lost. Don’t forget that motherhood might still be hard for her, even though she comes to church with her hair looking good and her kids dressed cute. Don’t forget that her first baby came from a different father. Don’t forget that her kids come from hard places and sometimes bonding might still be hard for either her or her child. Don’t forget that her womb is still empty. And when you have remembered these heartaches of your acquaintance, friend or kindred spirit, remember that this is the Holy Spirit prompting you to ask her a heartfelt question, to take her a cup of coffee from her favorite cafe, to make her a meal, to take her some chocolate, to treat her to a pedicure, to drive to her house and let her cry on your shoulder, to send her a letter, to text her, to call her, to take her kids for an afternoon, to babysit for her while she goes on a date or whatever other creative idea that Holy Spirit inspires your heart to do! Just REMEMBER and do!
You need to be willing to let others in!
The other aspect to take into consideration is for the one who is originally weeping. For those that are weeping, you MUST be willing to share your heart! You need be willing to let others in! You HAVE to be willing to be vulnerable with those who love you enough to ask and/or listen. When you are asked, “How are you?” and you ALWAYS respond, “I’m fine!” with a smile, there is not one person that can weep with you!
There are situations that are obvious and there is no doubt that you will be weeping! Everyone can see it and everyone can know that you are hurting. But, there are some situations that require you to be open, honest, real and vulnerable so that we can weep with you. And listen ladies, vulnerability reaps vulnerability. If you are open enough with other people to let your sorrow out on the table, other people will weep with you, because they feel your pain, and some of them will weep because they are so thankful that they.are.not.alone! And then, my dear friends, you will take whatever relationship you have with that person to the very next level.
In addition, if you always guard your heart, you rob others of the opportunity for Biblical obedience, to weep with those that weep. (Let me be clear about one thing, though, I am not advocating walking around with a frown on our faces all of the time, grumbling about our lot in life. I simply believe, that even through a cheerful demeanor, we can be vulnerable women, allowing others to help us carry our burden.)
Now, onto the first part of the verse.
This commandment, well, this commandment is just a little bit harder to do, at least consistently. Once again, I think that rejoicing with others when they rejoice is pretty second nature for us, as long as it is something that we ourselves are enjoying or something that we are fairly certain we don’t really desire for ourselves.
Let me explain what I mean…the 26 year old pregnant woman or the woman with her quiver full is going to be pretty excited and rejoice with her friend that just announced that she is pregnant! Yay!! The 30 year old married woman is going to be ecstatic for her friend that just got engaged this past weekend. The stay at home mom is elated for her friend that just got a book signing, because she has zero desire whatsoever to be an author herself. When things are going well for us, when our expectations are being met (or exceeded), when our plans for our lives are going as we anticipated, it is easy for us to get excited and to celebrate with other people, no matter what our level of relationship is.
The true test of obedience to this commandment is rejoicing with others when they rejoice, even when it is hard for our hearts!
There are probably many reasons why we don’t rejoice with others like we should. There are three that I want to point out.
Pride & Jealousy
Digging down to the root of our lack of rejoicing with others is, I believe, two sinful natures: pride and jealousy. These two ugly traits can often cripple us in our willingness to shout for joy with others. Pride because, hey, let’s face it, sometimes it isn’t easy to admit and settle for ordinary. We all want something extraordinary about us and when someone else gets what we had “planned” for our extraordinary, it is a little bit difficult to be celebratory. And jealousy…well, while I know that there are some that struggle with this sin more than others, there is a reason that it was in the 10 commandments. And let’s face it, when there is someone that gets what we want, the green eyed monster is right there to make sure that we do our part to not to participate in any rejoicing that goes on for our acquaintance, friend or kindred spirit. Yes, even the very best of our besties can be on the receiving end of our jealousy, robbing them of the blessing of being rejoiced with.
Joy is Not Scarce!
I have a secret to share with you, though, friends. Okay, well, it’s not really a secret, you no doubt already know what I am going to tell you, but I am going to tell you anyway. Joy is NOT a scarcity! Just because you have some joy, doesn’t mean that I am going to have less! Just because there is joy in someone else’s life, doesn’t mean that you are going to have less! Joy is not like a pie, with a finite number of pieces and if you get a big ole piece, someone else’s piece might be smaller. Or if someone else’s piece is gigantic, your piece might be miniscule. NO! That is not how it works! Joy is more like the strawberry plants that grow in your backyard, that take time and cultivating and care and energy, but if you take care of them and nurture them, they will continue to flourish! It may not be all of the time, but your season of joy will come! Your joy just might look different than someone else’s and the joy that God has for you might look different than you planned. Nevertheless, there is always joy to be had.
So, how do we ensure that joy is thriving in our lives so that rejoicing with others comes more second nature? The answer: gratitude! If we have thankfulness in our hearts, then what we have is enough. We are content. And if we are content, then we are going to be able to rejoice with others when they rejoice, even if our humanness would tell us that it should be hard for our hearts.
Little, Ordinary Gifts are Rejoice-Worthy
The third reason that I think that we do not rejoice with others when they are rejoicing is often because we take so many things for granted and forget that even the little, ordinary gifts in life are rejoice-worthy!
For our kiddos, this might be rejoicing with them when they come home with all A’s on their report card, even though they have had all A’s all year. That is worth rejoicing! We shouldn’t just celebrate because they had C’s and now they have an A! Their accomplishment is definitely something to be celebrated! Or how about the fact that our friend’s child who has regular meltdowns at school made it through an entire week with none! CELEBRATE with your dear friend! Or your friend who tried Whole30 and was successful for 30 whole days! Rejoice with her! Or your sister who found the cutest pair of shoes at the consignment shop for a really really great price!
I’ll tell you what I want to celebrate: when my grocery shopping is done for the week! I’m telling you, when I get home from the grocery store, there would be nothing sweeter than to have a pal right there to fist bump me and then delve into some hummus and pita chips or nachos and queso (that I just picked up from the store, of course) as we revel in my small victory for the week (or if I’ve planned really well, for the next two weeks! ;-)).
Friends, these are all little things in life, and very earthly, I know, but if we all wait for only the big things to rejoice with our friends, well, those seasons come and they go. But, finding reasons to rejoice in our everyday ordinary, well, now, the celebration will hardly end when it is time to commence all over again!
Friends, God has given us the gift of joy and weeping. He has given us the gift of community. He has given us the gift of sharing. Let’s combine these three ingredients together to enjoy and enrich our lives and to bless others!
Anne is the wife of Dave and mother to Jude, Aysha, Aliya, Aspyn and Amyah. She is also a teacher. She is a creamer with some coffee guru. She is a fan of coffee dates with her friends, especially her kindred spirits. She enjoys reading a good book, fiction or non-fiction, when she has some time. Quiet time with God and a good cup of coffee is one of her favorite parts of the day.