“Before we moved here,” Stan began, “there was a man in our church who lost his wife to cancer.”
“Had they been married a long time?” I asked.
“Not certain how long,” Stan replied, “but quite a few years. They were very close and he missed her terribly.”
“Always sorry to hear that sort of thing,” I responded. “Grief can be quite a burden.”
“Not only that,” Stan said, “but there’s an opposite that can also be a heavy burden.”
“Opposite?” I replied. “What do you mean?”
“It wasn’t too long after that man’s wife died,” Stan replied, “that another couple in the church had the same kind of cancer diagnosis for the wife, but the result was different.”
“In what way?”
“She survived,” Stan said, “and the last I heard she is doing just fine.”
“So,” I replied, “I bet there was a lot of rejoicing over that.”
“By many people,” Stan said, “but not by the man who had lost his wife.”
Continuing he added, “The man could not bring himself to rejoice with the other couple. He was locked in bitterness over the death of his wife. Very angry with God. He didn’t think it was fair that he lost his wife, but the other woman survived.”
“Probably fairly common,” I responded, “don’t you think?”
“I do,” Stan said, “but that doesn’t make it right.”
“The apostle Paul addressed this in his letter to the church in Rome,” Stan continued, “when he wrote about rejoicing with those who rejoice. He didn’t put any conditions on the rejoicing.”
“Conditions?” I replied. “What do you mean?”
“Paul didn’t say to rejoice if you feel like rejoicing,” Stan said. “He said to rejoice.”
“And this whole story has a different twist concerning what Paul wrote,” Stan added, “that makes what the man did even more unfortunate.”
“How so?” I asked.
“The couple that survived the cancer,” Stan responded, “had been particularly strong in reaching out to the man who lost his wife. They were there with him all of the way as he grieved and wept over his wife.”
“Well,” I said, “that’s nice, but how does that apply here?”
“The same verse,” Stan replied, “says to weep with those who weep.”
“Oh,” I said, “I see what you mean.”
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15.
Have I not wept for the one whose life is hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy? Job 30:25.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the things you bring into my life for which I am to rejoice. It is easy to rejoice over good things that happen to me. But it is not as easy to rejoice with someone who is rejoicing when I wish I was the one who had the reason to rejoice. Such lack of ability to rejoice with another person comes from self-focus. Please help me with that so I am empathetic with whatever is going on in another person’s life, whether it’s rejoicing or weeping. Help me to come along side of them and provide what they need. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Have you ever been in a situation where you were weeping and grieving, but no one came along side of you to share your grief? What did that feel like? In the same way have you ever not reached out to another who is weeping because you didn’t know how to reach out? What about rejoicing? Have you ever rejoiced over something and felt resentment from others? If so, how did you respond to that? Have you ever failed to rejoice with another person for the same reason, resenting that it was that person and not you? If so, reflect on that in light of the fact Paul did not write that we are to rejoice only if we feel like rejoicing!