“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
Romans 12: 15
A tough call
I love the sentiment in this verse, but I think it is kind of a tough call too.
In theory, it should be easy. The most natural thing in the world… But in practice, I think we probably all know it’s not always that simple.
‘You’re pregnant? How wonderful!’
‘You’re getting married? Fantastic news.’
‘Another promotion? Well done you.’
Sometimes the words just stick in your throat…
What are you longing for right now?
You may already know if you’ve been reading my blog, that one of the things I am most longing for right now is a second child.
We’ve been trying for nearly two years now, on and off, suffering two miscarriages and lots of fertility tests along the way.
And most of the time I am okay with what has happened and the continued unknowing, but sometimes small things unexpectedly crop up and really press on the point of pain; thing like pregnancy announcements by other friends or family…
And this week has been another case in point. Another friend told me that she is pregnant with her second son.
Her first is the same age as my first, and she’s not been without some struggles with fertility and miscarriage along the way herself…
So I should have felt really happy for her, and I guess that part of me was, but the truth is that I really struggled to muster up any enthusiasm or excitement when she told me at all. But I cracked a half smile, and congratulated her all the same.
I’m happy that she is happy, of course, but if I’m honest I’m also just really gutted that it’s still not happening for me.
And I hate that this has even become ‘a thing’. But the truth is that somewhere along my journey it has…
About longing unfulfilled
Are you longing for something right now too? Perhaps it’s a longing to marry, longing for healing, longing for children, longing for freedom, longing for breakthrough, longing for direction, or longing for something to change…
Living with longing can be hard. But increasingly I’m learning that this sense of deep longing for something is just another part of living in this broken fallen world…
And if you really listen for long enough, you’ll discover that there’s a deep longing or dissatisfaction that exists inside of every human soul.
In Romans 8: 19-20 Paul the apostle writes this:
“For all of creation waits with eager longing for sons of God to be revealed.
“And creation was subjected to this frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
So maybe the longing that so many of us live with is actually a gift, as well as a frustration, because it reveals our deep need for God, and that deep need keeps us from becoming complacent. It keeps us pressing in. So there’s that…
But at the same time, when you’ve been waiting for something to materialise for a really long time, or you’re mourning something that’s already lost, someone else’s joy can really, really grate on you, can’t it?
And likewise, someone else’s sadness or tragedy can feel like a real dampner in the face of your celebration or success, can’t it?
Life is just kind of strange like that.
Proverbs 13: 12 puts it like this:
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Life is full of contradictions
The truth is that life is just full of these difficult juxtapositions and contradictions.
A wedding celebration with a mention of a recently lost parent.
A niece celebrating her first birthday in the same week as the first anniversary of a loss.
A family engagement alongside a divorce.
A baby announcement alongside a miscarriage.
A dream job alongside a redundancy.
The list could go on and on …
And sometimes I am left wondering how we are supposed to navigate those kinds of tensions – sometimes spoken, but often left unsaid – in our friendships and families.
Is there a better alternative to be found than just avoiding those difficult topics for fear of stepping on eggshells, or worse still, just withdrawing from painful situations? Is there a way to do these things well?
Choosing a better way
What I love about this passage is how it encourages each of us to practice greater sensitivity and empathy towards other people around us, and the different seasons of life they may be walking.
It can be hard to figure out how to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and mourn with those who are mourning – but actually, I am finding that this is where the really good, deep, substance of friendship is forged.
Because when I decide to step over my pain and my disappointment to celebrate with a friend at her baby shower, more of Christ is formed in me.
And as a friend chooses to overcome awkwardness and keep inviting me into her baby joy, even as she stands with me in my loss, more of Christ is formed in her too.
So here’s the challenge: let’s not just take the easy option and check out when things get tough…
Let’s keep choosing to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.