Don't Ask Me to Rejoice
As you read this verse, which command do you find more difficult? At first glance, you may say the latter (that's the second one if you have trouble with the whole former/latter thing like me). Weeping isn't easy. It's difficult to bring ourselves to the place of weeping, especially when the source of sorrow doesn't directly affect us. When we're with a weeper for whatever the reason we may find ourselves at a loss for words or reverting back to trite comforting phrases our culture has given us for those awkward times. I often find myself in this situation. I'll hear of the death of a loved one, a tough financial burden, a particularly stressful season at work, or a handful of other difficult situations and just nod my head. I'll offer the traditional, "That's tough, I'll be praying for you, hang in there, things will turn around, God is in control, I hope you find peace..." But do I weep with those who weep? Sometimes...
As hard as it is to weep with those who weep, I find the first command to be much more difficult. Hearing about sorrow and trial evokes a deep seeded emotion of wanting to bring comfort. Almost any human being feels this, even if they don't know how to express it. But the flip-side of sorrow, hearing about good times, brings up a different deeply seeded human emotion, at least for me: jealousy.
Sure, I'll weep with those who weep, but don't ask me to rejoice with those who rejoice. I'll put my arm around a friend who just lost their baby, but I also have to get excited with someone who just got a surprise inheritance for $2,000 when I have to pay that amount for a car bill? I have to put on a smile around Christmas when a friend's child get the gift my kid wanted but we couldn't afford? I need to rejoice at all the reunions posted on Facebook when I haven't seen my loved one in forever? When my friend gets his dream job and I'm stuck going nowhere in mine, I need to be joyful? When a church's attendance is exploding for seemingly no reason and ours is declining, I need to be happy with that other pastor? I was happy about our full Christmas Eve service, but now that I hear you had to have a second service because you were so packed, I'm not so sure... Do I really have to rejoice about that?
I've found that each of us typically has something God is trying to root out our hearts; some sin that He confronts with trials, whether it be lying, gluttony, anxiety, pride, gossip, or something else. As we go through our individual trials we inevitably will be tested by someone else finding joy in the area we wrestle with. During Christmas this seems to be especially potent. This double command has proven difficult for me, but now that I'm aware of my weakness, I pray that God gives me the strength to see someone's joy as a beautiful grace for them, not a reminder of what I lack. Yes, jealousy may be an initial reaction, but the Spirit of God can turn jealousy into joy as we obey these five little words: rejoice with those who rejoice.