Rejoicing When It's Hard

“Rejoice with those who rejoice.” –Romans 12:15a

Rejoicing with others is sometimes really hard, especially when they are getting what you desperately want. I have been convicted lately that I put people in categories: those who are easy to rejoice with and those who are more difficult. In the second category it can be much harder to rejoice with them. Maybe you want to be married and your friend (who always seems to have a guy hanging around her) just recently got engaged. Maybe you are hoping for a certain job and the person who cuts corners gets the promotion or the opportunity. Maybe you want a particular scholarship and you are looked over, again. Or maybe you have been trying to get pregnant for a while and every time you check Facebook one more person is expecting a little bundle of joy.

It’s hard, isn’t it?

But the biblical command doesn’t include an exception clause. We are not given a pass at rejoicing when it’s harder for us, or when someone hasn’t walked our road with us. The command is there because it is hard and counter-intuitive. Our natural self would rather not rejoice with someone when they have something we want. We would much rather wallow in self-pity and sadness. But the redeemed person, who Paul is talking to, has a new heart and a new perspective. It’s not all about me and my world anymore. The Bible says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). And it also says that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). We have no more control over the outcome of our own life as we do over those around us. God is the provider of it all.

The fact that we can’t rejoice over another person’s blessing is just plain old fashioned jealousy, if we are truly honest. We have made what we desire (and what they have) into an idol. If we can’t have it we sure don’t want that person to have it instead. Or maybe you don’t go to that extreme, but you might feel like you deserve this gift. If they have it, why can’t you have it too? These heart attitudes are all hindrances to our ability to rejoice. They strip us of our joy for others, and ultimately our joy in God because he is the one who supplies every good thing we have.

Thankfully, Christ has come to redeem all of that. This verse is in there because it is hard. It is not mere willpower. If we were honest, every feeble attempt to rejoice in our own strength without a changed heart falls miserably short of the goal. Just like Romans 12 starts out, in view of God’s mercy this is how we are supposed to live. In light of the Spirit’s work in our life, this is how we love and serve the Body. The only way to rejoice with those who rejoice, even when your heart is breaking, is to trust the One who deserved more good gifts than all of us but gave up everything for us all. He makes us servant-hearted. He makes us rejoice. He has paid for all that jealousy and envy that threatens to destroy us. And he gives us a reason to rejoice even through tears.