“Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12: 15 (NIV)
I don’t mean to boast, but I am tender-hearted. My friends know I cry easily when they share their pain with me and I am quick to hug or give a comforting touch when sorrow hits. So I have “mourn with those who mourn” pretty well covered. But that is the second half of the Paul’s command to the Romans; the first part is “rejoice with those who rejoice”.
Harder to do – for me, especially when my friend’s joy comes from a source that I am not sharing – like a big pay raise, a house renovation, a new car, a wonderful trip or vacation. Remember what it feels like when a friend has a baby and you haven’t gotten pregnant yet, a friend marries when your love life is fraught with difficulty or is non-existent or when facebook photos come through of that smiling couple taking a tour of Italian wineries?
We have different blessings and achievements, not cookie cutter lives following a formula for fame and fortune.
“Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s successes.” Oscar Wilde
This “very fine nature” that Mr. Wilde touts is the goal. My study bible text note declares that “identification with others in their joys and in their sorrows is a Christian’s privilege and responsibility”. We are pushed to get out of our own self-centered thinking and connect to another person’s joy.
Taking this high road loosens up our hearts and actually feels good. Others find more freedom to enjoy their successes and blessings. When I “rejoiced” with a friend not too long ago about a cruise her husband wanted to take her on, it freed her up to look forward to it and not feel guilty for her good fortune.
I want my friends to celebrate with me, too, in true mutual friendship.
And I yearn to trust that my Heavenly Father hasn’t forgotten me when I don’t receive the same blessings as others. He is the one who gives bread, not stones, and fish, not snakes.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7: 9-11 (NIV)