I'm Happy for You... (Not)
by Kelly Givens
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
“Just installed our kitchen countertops! They’re GORGEOUS.”
I rolled my eyes as I glanced at the pictures someone - no older than me - had just posted online. Picture after picture of their sparkly new kitchen, inside their custom built (custom built, I tell you!) house. I looked up from screen and into my own tiny apartment kitchen with its plain, generic countertops. Nothing custom-built in my place. I tried not to think about it, but it was too late - jealousy had flooded my heart. It’s scary how natural it flowed in. All I wanted in that moment was to be OUT of my apartment and into some glamorous space of my own. Can you relate?
I love it when the Bible is black and white. There’s no confusion surrounding Romans 12:15 - we’re called to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Pretty simple... except when it isn’t. I bet most of us wouldn’t have to think too hard to remember a time we failed pretty miserably at rejoicing over someone’s joy, or weeping as another wept. Why do we have this challenge?
When we fail to rejoice with those who rejoice, there could be several reasons why, but here are some I thought of off the top of my head: insecurity, jealousy or envy, discontent, bitterness.
What about when we fail to weep with those who weep? Here are some reasons (excuses, really) that come to mind: lacking compassion, both generally in life or toward a certain individual; perhaps not taking the time to listen or really put yourself in the person’s position; too busy to notice the suffering of others, distancing yourself emotionally from pain.
I’ve thought of some scenarios that may indicate we’re failing at Romans 12:15:
- Instead of rejoicing at someone’s news, we immediately begin to compare how our circumstances measure up.
- We’re quick to say “Oh yes, that happened to me once, too” instead of silently listening and acknowledging the hurt of others.
- We try to come to the rescue in every situation, rather than acknowledging that some suffering isn’t solvable or explainable (think Job and his friends).
- We brush off the pain of others because we think they are “taking things too hard.”
- We’re quick to say, “Well at least you’ve never experienced this" (insert whatever horrible thing we’ve experienced).
- We think they cheated their way to the blessings, just got lucky or don’t deserve the good thing they received (their parents are totally paying for that custom-built house!).
So what’s at the root of all of this? What’s the “sin beneath the sin,” so to speak?
I think central to our failure to rejoice and weep with others is a preoccupation with self. We can’t step outside of ourselves long enough to truly step into both the blessings and sufferings of those around us. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve tried to make a habit of acknowledging the joys and sufferings of others without immediately inserting myself into the situation. This isn’t a natural inclination for me. Satan is the master of deception and loves to make us fall for one of the oldest tricks in the book: that everything is about us.
Ultimately, the key to mastering Romans 12:15 isn’t just thinking about ourselves less. We’ve got to think about God more. People are most successful at eliminating bad behaviors or habits from their lives when they replace them with a good habit or behavior. So, I not only have to stop focusing on myself, but I have to replace all that time I spend thinking of myself with thinking of God. This is life transforming; this is the key to killing pride - not simply humbling yourself, but exalting God - who is the only thing worthy of our exaltation.
When I’m thinking about God, and not about myself, he reminds me of some powerful truths:
I’ve come from dust and I’ll return to dust. Genesis 3:19 reminds me that no matter how much I get ahead in life, eventually I’m going to die. And nothing on this earth is worth coveting when I acknowledge that I can’t take it with me.
I am beautifully and wonderfully made. Psalms 139 reminds me that God made me perfectly, intentionally, knowingly- so I need to stop comparing the body I have to others. He made me just right.
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30 reminds me that envy is a crippling sin; I could literally waste my life away being envious of others. Contentment, on the other hand, brings life.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 reminds me that our part of our calling as Christians is to care for those burdened and help carry the burdens of others. I don’t get to “pass” on this part of my faith if it doesn’t come naturally to me or if I feel inconvenienced or uncomfortable by it. I don’t get to ignore the sufferings of others; I’m called to step into it.
After meditating on God’s promises and blessings, I am able to recall all the wonderful things about our apartment (hello, cheap rent!) and the many, many ways God has blessed and provided for me. Proverbs 30:8 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” As Christians, contentment in our own circumstances is the surest way to reflect the all satisfying power of Christ to those who may need to be reminded of where their joys and sufferings begin and end.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Do you struggle to rejoice with those rejoicing or weep with those weeping? Check yourself - what’s stopping you? Pray that God would help uncover the “sin beneath the sin” - the ways you’re focusing on yourself instead of focusing on Him.