After Hurricane Irma last fall, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I saw people rejoicing that their power had returned after the storm. Some never lost it in the first place.
I wanted to be happy for them, but it was hard when we were staring down day 3 without it. Days after that, we still had friends without power. I’m guessing they struggled even more than we did.
Sometimes it’s hard to rejoice with those who rejoice.
In the course of just a few weeks, we saw devastation in Texas, the Caribbean, and Florida. People lost everything. Yet as I scanned comments on articles about the aftermath, my heart broke over remarks flinging judgment at choices made to stay or go. Contempt poured over people where instead empathy was needed. Rather than entering others’ pain, people stood at a distance and thanked God it wasn’t them.
Sometimes it’s hard to weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 says, “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Both are challenging.
I used to think it was harder to weep with others, but lately, I see the challenge in celebrating as well.
Oh, it’s easy to do if I am in an unrelated situation, or I have already found my own happiness in a similar one. But when we share the same hunger, and you are fed while I am not, how do I enter in well? How do I set aside my lack to rejoice in your plenty?
There is the couple who longs for a child, watching their friends easily conceive. Consider single friends who watch as yet another friend gets married. Think of the one who is overlooked while a co-worker is elevated. My friend’s child succeeds but mine fails. He loses weight but you don’t.
How can we truly rejoice with others?
Rejoicing with others is a choice
The simple but hard answer is: it’s a choice we make. If we refuse to rejoice with others, we not only diminish their joy, we lose ours as well. Rejoicing when it’s challenging humbles us, reminding us not to hold tightly to the things of the world. When we do that, it’s a greater sacrifice of love.
But rejoicing with others does not mean we kill our own desires. In fact, we hold them steady. That requires us to do something else: allowing ourselves to mourn what we lack.
Weeping with others begins with ourselves
Rather than minimizing, ignoring, spiritualizing, or pouring contempt on our own pain, we enter it. We cannot weep with others if we do not weep for ourselves.
Oh, I know, that sounds scary, wrong even. We’re afraid we’ll get lost in the emotion, that we’re not exhibiting faith.
But when we acknowledge our own unmet desires, God meets us in them. Then, we receive His compassion and comfort. The more we allow ourselves to weep over our own pain, the greater our capacity to weep with others in theirs.
Rejoicing or weeping: either option requires that we hold someone’s pain-our own or someone else’s. That’s why it’s so hard to do.
We must be uncomfortable in order to be connected.
But when we are connected in this way, it is powerful and life-giving. That is why we are asked to do it in scripture, and why we must strive to do it well.
What’s harder for you? To rejoice with others when you are struggling? Or to weep with others, when they’re the ones experiencing trials?