Saturday, 21 April 2012

Rejoicing and weeping

Isn’t it great when every thing in life seems to be really good, thing’s just seem to fall into place and life is easy? We find ourselves in times of great joy and yet sometimes we forget to rejoice. When things are harder we then realise how easy we had it and that we should have been more grateful. By nature we are selfish. We expect that life will go our way and when it does we forget to say thank you and when it doesn’t we struggle.

Romans 12:15 teaches us an amazing lesson and if we can grasp hold of this and let it root itself in our hearts, our hearts will beat with the heart of God. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” NASB. (Some translations say ‘mourn with those who mourn.’)

Our Wedding day was arguably the best day of my life. I was excited and full of hope for the future. We invited others to share in our joy and it was a great day of rejoicing. I am very grateful to God that we have each other and our journey together began that day, but there had also been some very sad times and as a result amidst our rejoicing there was still a deep sadness. My husband’s brother had been killed two years before in a car accident and there was a hole where he should have been at our wedding.  His wife was with us to share the day and though she came to rejoice with us, we were also weeping alongside her. It’s not easy to go to a wedding and hear ‘til death do us part’ in the ceremony and be facing the reality of that just two years in to your marriage. But she came and we rejoiced.  We rejoiced as a family and as a family we wept too. The pain of losing a son, a husband, a brother or grandson does not go away. It changes but it remains.

When I think about this verse it sounds easy to say ‘rejoice with those who rejoice’. It’s easy to rejoice and be so pleased for others when you are happy. I often wonder though, if we get so consumed in our joy sometimes that we fail to notice those around who are sad. It is right that we rejoice. God has done, is doing and will do great things for us! We should rejoice with everything we have and with each other too but let’s be sensitive in that. Don’t be robbed of joy but don’t be insensitive. Real rejoicing is felt deeply it doesn’t have to boast; it makes your heart glad and doesn’t need to be arrogant. I want to seek to get the balance right.

If we look then at the part where it says, “Weep with those who weep”, again this poses a challenge. We can shed a tear at someone’s sadness, in that brief moment we can feel the pain of someone who has just lost someone close to them or has received bad news, but then we can easily carry on with our day. I believe that when the verse says ‘weep with those who weep’ it means keep on weeping, remember that they are in pain. Of course it is unrealistic to think that we can do that for every single member of our congregation all the time but you can do it within your circle of influence and if everyone did that we should have it covered.

We forget, when there is a lot of rejoicing, that there are many who are weeping. Time heals to an extent but it also forgets if we let it. The person who is weeping however does not forget. It is a challenge to us all to remember those who carry pain. A simple “ I was thinking of you today’, ‘that must have been hard for you’ or ‘ we still think about that person you lost you know, they won’t be forgotten’ means everything and it actually frees the ‘weeping’ person to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice’ because someone has remembered that they still carry pain and took the time to bring a word of comfort and to lift their head.

If you carry sadness it can be hard to find your place. It can feel like no one really understands and so you don’t know where you fit, but there are many who understand and if we remember that, it reminds us that we are not alone and that our experience could be of use to someone. God always works all things for good if you let him, no matter how bad it was or is.

Sadness is not your friend. It may be present in your life but don’t make friends with it. It may feel like you don’t know how to function without your friend ‘sadness’ because that is what you know and you can’t get away from it, or you might actually have got yourself comfortable there or even worse, that your sadness has turned to self pity. Please don’t get me wrong on this one. I am not saying that pain isn’t real, it is, but if we get stuck in a place where sadness has become a ‘friend’ then self-pity can get in and self-pity stinks! Pain is real and raw. Self-pity clings on to a time when pain was really deep and it tells you that you deserve to feel sorry for yourself and that you deserve for others to feel sorry for you even if actually the pain is not as bad as it was. We must get this balance right and be responsible for our actions and decisions. Check yourself to see if actually your need for others to weep with you is about attention. Check that you are not using something that has happened to you as a reason for not rejoicing with others because you get attention from it. It doesn’t mean that it is not hard but you have a choice to make to try and move away from self-pity for the sake of someone else’s joy. In fact, the antidote to self-pity is ‘rejoicing with those who rejoice’ genuinely! You might have to force yourself to do it at first but it will turn from a choice you made into your natural joyful reaction before long.

I came across this challenging quote:

‘Those who show pity and are always ready to help during times of trouble are seldom the same ones who rejoice in our joy: when others are happy they have nothing to do, they become superfluous and lose their feeling of superiority, and so they easily show their displeasure. Friedrich Nietzsche.’

It is not always the case, of course, that people need to feel superior in their pain to have a role but there is a danger of it. Please don’t become someone who is superfluous because you have nothing to do if people around you are rejoicing, instead find your place in the midst of rejoicing with others and let go of self-pity.

There is a challenge to all of us to ‘weep with those who weep’ and not think so much about ourselves, but I think that actually it is a bigger challenge to ‘rejoice’ when we are weeping. It is very hard to feel joy when you are jealous that someone has the thing that you desperately want or if you are just genuinely filled with sorrow. Their rejoicing can feel as though they are being smug but often they are just rejoicing and it is our view that is distorted. People should be rejoicing and if we are suffering it is a massive challenge to join them in their joy but it is to our honour if we can try.

In Mark 9 we read of a story of a boy with an evil spirit. When the spirit sees Jesus he sends the boy into convulsions and Jesus asks how long as he been like this? His father tells Jesus that it has been since birth and he says, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” Jesus replies, “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes.”

We can be sure that the one who knows our deepest pain is Jesus and that he pities us. He feels great compassion towards us. The father of this boy says ‘take pity on us and help us’. We can say that to Jesus when we feel sad. We can make a choice to rejoice with those who rejoice, even in our sadness and ask Him to help us. If we want to rejoice we will be able to rejoice because ‘everything is possible for one who believes’. I am reminded again of Philippians 4:13  ‘I can do all things through him who gives me strength’. It can take all the strength we have, and then some, to make the choice to rejoice but we can do it through Christ, who is our source of strength.

If we understand again what Jesus did for us, we can rejoice. I remember one Sunday morning at church, I was in the worship team and we were singing a song called ‘rejoice’. At that time, life was great for me, but then I saw someone walk into the back of church and I knew that her sister had died that week. It felt flippant to be singing ‘rejoice’ when she had had the worst week of her life, but actually it wasn’t flippant. It was deep and true. “Let all that seek the Lord rejoice” we sang. I watched her and she lifted her hands to God in worship and I knew that she understood that the joy of the Lord was her strength that morning.

If we rejoice we don’t forget our sadness and equally, if we cry with someone we don’t forget our joy. There should always be lots of rejoicing but also lots of remembering: lots of praising God for His goodness but also acknowledging the need for His help.

Rejoice with those who rejoice: Weep with those who weep.

It is no coincidence in my mind that these two opposites were pulled together into the same verse and this verse describes the family of God. Let’s try to get the balance right.

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