"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weeks 30 & 31: Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice; Mourn With Those Who Mourn

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." ~ Romans 12:15

A few weeks ago, Christina and I attended a 25th wedding anniversary party for some very dear friends who have devoted their lives to loving God and His people. A couple Sundays ago we attended a baby dedication for our new niece and nephew---miracle babies that, according to medical science, should never have been conceived. No doubt these were occasions worth celebrating.

I've always tried, however, to avoid those types of occasions---the big events with a crowd of people. I'm an introvert. It's not that I don't like people; I just like them in small doses. I'm recharged by being alone or with a few close friends. I'm drained by being in a large group of people. When it comes to weddings, I always tell Christina the same stuff: "What difference does it make if I go? There's gonna' be 200 people there. Nobody will notice whether I'm there or not."

In the last few weeks, however, God has used these commands to convict me of my selfishness and self-centeredness. He's shown me how petty my rationalizing is and how pathetic my excuses. These commands (rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn) call us us Christians out of preoccupation with self and and away from self-oriented thinking.

Being comfortable isn't the point. Being noticed certainly isn't the point. In fact, maybe sometimes being uncomfortable and/or not noticed is the point. God calls us to forget about ourselves and our convenience and to join with the feelings of others.

I don't think these commands are just about attending the big events, although my perspective on weddings and funerals will probably never be the same. I think it's also about celebrating and mourning the small victories and losses suffered by others. In my life, the call to rejoice with those who rejoice is not only a call to rejoice over weddings and births, but also a call to rejoice with my son over success on a spelling quiz or over a really neat paper airplane that he's made. The command to mourn with those who mourn is a call to be there for those who have suffered a tragic loss. Sadly, last week we attended the funeral visitation for a dear friend's brother who died far too young. On a daily basis, however, the call to mourn with those who mourn is a call to be there for those who suffer smaller but still significant losses. The command is a call, for example, to sympathize with a co-worker who has just suffered through a difficult phone call with a rude and insulting person. It's a call to sympathize with my spouse who has just had a very difficult day, even though I've also had a difficult day.

Something else I've noticed is what God does not command here. He doesn't command us to give advice to those who mourn. He doesn't command us to solve the problems of those who mourn. He doesn't even call us to speak encouraging words to those who mourn. There is a time for words of encouragement, and there is a time to speak the truth in love. In choosing our words and our timing, I believe we must be guided by Godly wisdom and the leading of the Holy Spirit. But let's not forget that the right response to those who mourn is often simply to join hands with them and to share in their grief.

1 comment:

  1. "Mourn with those who mourn" is something that I have to remind myself of frequently- especially with kids. Even when I was back watching Alli, I would remind myself of that scripture when she was upset. Singing songs didn't necessarily cheer her up, sometimes she just needed to be sad for a little while. It was ok for her to miss her mom.