Friday, August 15, 2014

Romans 12:15 -- "Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn."

I (Alan) have been contemplating this verse, Romans 12:15 for the last couple of weeks.  Bear with me as I try to set down some thoughts.  I'm sure there will be many commas and much rambling, but hopefully this post will be edifying to you.  If nothing else, I'm sure it'll be therapeutic for me.

In this verse, we come to a passage that lays out one of the ways that Christians are to be set apart from the world.  The world sees suffering and often passes by on the other side of the road.  The world sees taht suffering is messy, and if you get too close, you're likely to get some of that mess on you.  On the flip side, I think it goes without saying that the inborn tendency of the human heart is to be jealous when someone else "gets ahead" in the world.  If you doubt me, go hand my 4 year old a bowl of ice cream in front of his 2 year old sister.  Abi's immediate reaction is not going to be one of rejoicing for Isaac's blessing.  Granted, years of training teaches us to be polite and not throw a tantrum when someone else gets something we want to, but it's there under the surface.

Life in the Body of Christ looks different from this.  When one member of the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers along with him or her.  When one member of the Body rejoices, the whole Body rejoices.

Let me share about both of those, rejoicing and mourning from the perspective of one who is going through an experience most of you have not gone through before.  My hope is to give you a little perspective and encourage you.

Oddly enough, this isn't the first time in my life I've experienced suffering that my peers around me didn't necessarily understand.  The first time, I was 8, going to third grade after my dad was killed in a plane crash.  Needless to say, the other kids couldn't exactly relate to what I was going through (remember, I went to a small school).  Beyond that, I didn't know Christ yet.  I remember clearly having to try to learn to control my emotions, because a weepy boy invites all kinds of bullying.  I also remember quickly giving into my inner hermit and withdrawing from all but one or two friends.  There were no peers who could empathize with what I was going through.  On the other side, I resented the normal lives all of the other kids seemed to have (I know better now).  Slowly, I worked through the bitterness, to the point that until my epiphany right before I started this post, I didn't even think about the parallels to today.

That brings us the the second time that we're in a situation that few can relate to.  I'm sure through the last few months you've seen the rawness of the emotions we're going through.  The difference is that now we are part of the Body of Christ.  There is a whole family of people out there who have been called to empathize with us.  Boice defines empathy as "the ability to identify closely with someone else, to make his case your own and allow what has happened to him to affect you also."

Can we be honest, that's really hard.  I've heard from many of you that you aren't sure how to empathize with us as we go through this.  Can I be honest?  We don't have a clue how you all can empathize with us either.  Unfortunately, we know pretty quickly when something said or done hits a raw spot.  I confess that sometimes we haven't been the most gracious in our response back.  Please forgive us as we try to remember that you all love us and that you are trying to follow the command of Romans 12:14.  Don't let us scare you off from trying to love on us!  We are the Body of Christ, and if we as a church have learned nothing over the past couple of years, surely it is that when we are hurt by one another, Christ calls us to forgive one another and reconcile.  So, thank you to all of you who care about us so much to follow all of the posts on Facebook and the blog.  Thank you for your prayers, your cards, your visits and your words of encouragement.  Thank you for trying to empathize with us through this journey.

Now we come to the hard part of the verse... the first half.  Chrysostom, an early church father, once said that it "requires more of a high Christian temper, to rejoice with them that do rejoice, than to weep with them that weep. For this nature itself fulfills perfectly: and there is none so hard-hearted as not to weep over him that is in calamity: but the other requires a very noble soul, so as not only to keep from envying, but even to feel pleasure with the person who is in esteem."

I don't think I really understood the truth that it is really hard to rejoice with those who rejoice until now.  After all, don't we all rejoice at every wedding/  Don't we all celebrate every new life?  How about the person who is single and longs to be married?  What about the couple that has struggled for years with infertility?  It is hard sometimes to rejoice with the rejoicing.  Again, I'll have to ask your forgiveness as we muddle through.

For example, Monday, Facebook was alive with pictures of kids headed off for their first day of school.  Isaac "should" have been one of those pictures as he headed in for his first day of preschool.  Every post and every picture was a reminder that he won't get that experience this year.  So, am I saying we're upset with you all for posting pictures of your kids going to school?  May it never be so!  Instead, I'm saying that we're struggling through rejoicing with you all.

So, what can you do?  Continue to rejoice!  We will try to join you, and by God's grace and through the work of the Spirit in our lives, we pray that we can truly rejoice with you with each baby born this fall, each milestone that your newborn children are passing, each "normal" day that each of you are having.  Please don't be afraid of sharing your news with us.  We may be slow to react.  We may be grumpy (actually given our current level of exhaustion, I know for myself I can almost guarantee that).  It may even take some time for us to process, but by God's grace we do rejoice with you.


  1. Alan, Really appreciated hearing from you on this post! Love and prayers to you all.