I passed them in the grocery store, identical outfits for their identical status, seemingly about two years old. Their dresses were beautiful, and they lay perfectly on each of them as they stood tall and proud, not a care in the world. They were both holding a cookie, a ploy most likely from both the management and their momma to keep them entertained while she finished her shopping. One would twirl, and the other would giggle in glee, cookie dripping from her lips as she laughed. “Look, mama, look,” said the second girl, as she spun and spun and spun. It was a miracle, and I could not help but watch. Her mother glanced over, giving a half smile, and replied, “Wow, honey,” as she contemplated whether to buy butternut or acorn squash. As we made eye contact, she looked over at me with a somewhat smug grin and said, “I hate to tell you but you’re staring at your near future!” and chuckled. I gave her the most sincere smile I could muster up and simply said, “They are absolutely beautiful.”
We had just left two doctor’s appointments, one in which surgery was recommended and one that gave us another recommendation for another specialist. I had the girls in their stroller, the only way I can really grocery shop these days, and I was trying to hurry so that I could get the girls home to give them their boluses. We had passed four people already who had said something along the lines of, “Almost naptime?” or, “The one in the front looks like she’s about to take a nap”. The girls’ demeanor often appears tired to a watching stranger, for reasons I’m not quite sure. Maybe they are tired; or, maybe it’s just plain hard to spend their whole day in a series of work-outs that we tag as therapy and stimulation. It’s one of those things I just don’t know, along with a stream of others.
“Let love be genuine…rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”- Romans 12:9a,15
Let love be genuine.
Rejoice with those who rejoice.
Mourn with those who mourn.
Is your love for others genuine?
What I mean by that is, when you are in the grocery store and someone’s story looks drastically different than yours, are you able to be authentically happy for them or do you find yourself comparing?
If this story doesn’t ring a bell, apply it to your life in a different way.
When your friend makes a perfect score and you barely pass.
When an acquaintance posts she is engaged on social media, and you haven’t been on a date in two years.
When your co-worker’s husband sends her flowers, and you can’t remember the last time yours simply said, “I love you”.
When the facebook post that has gone viral announces he is healed from cancer, and you just got word yours is back.
When the blogger is talking about the woes of her special needs’ twins, and you simply wish you had yours back.
Do you rejoice- not just by mouth but in heart?
Friends, it’s hard. It’s so difficult to not filter everyone else’s story through our own lenses. In our house, we face this every day. As friends have babies and praise God for the, “happy and healthy”, I cringe. Knowing if I am bothered because I truly believe God should be praised regardless of health or happiness or if I’m watching their life unfold and I’m just plain jealous is sometimes a hard thing to determine. When we go to kids’ birthday parties and they are all running around and exploring the world and sharing a table full of goldfish and puffs, at times, I have found myself wondering how in the world I am supposed to rejoice in what appears to a life so “other” than ours. There are days when, if I’m honest, I would love to be the trendy food blogger rather than the blogger who encourages those in their suffering.
So, how do we rejoice when others rejoice without just faking it altogether?
And- on the other hand- how do we mourn with those who mourn when it seems like at any given moment, the mourning of those around us could absolutely consume?
“This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”- Psalm 118:24
This has become my mantra and recipe for attempting, sometimes feebly, to do the above. In order to have the strength, ability, drive, and authenticity to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, we must take into account that the Lord our God is above all things.
We must believe, with every ounce of our being, that His plans for each of His children are not only intricately planned and laid out, but that they are good.
We must remember that He promises us that, in Christ, the darkness has already been overcome and no night will ever end without the promise of the morning dawn.
We must cease looking at mourning as lesser than rejoicing, for our God said that those who mourn are blessed (Matthew 5:4).
He who made every season of every life promises us that He is working all things for our good.
And- as I have said many times before- a gentle reminder to each of us that this life is not about us yet our God is for us. Two truths that MUST go hand-in-hand.
As the Scriptures tell us in 2 Corinthians, Paul was going about, preaching the Gospel, risking his earthly life, and offering healing to others, all the while begging God to take away his own thorn.
He was watching others’ thorns get tossed into the sea in the blink of an eye. He was a faithful messenger. Why was his thorn not going away?
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”- 2 Corinthians 12:9
As this truth reached Paul’s heart, he was able to say, with all of who he was, that He was content with his weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ (vs. 10).
For the sake of Christ.
For the sake of Christ and what He has already overcome at the cross, we are able to rejoice and mourn with every individual God places in our lives.
He gives us limitless strength and ability to not compare, but to combine ourselves with one another as members of one body and find joy in all the details of the story He is writing.
In truth, we are not living out individual stories; but rather all of our lives are separate but interwined chapters in God’s glorious book.
He is the Author, and one day, we will see His story in perfect splendor.
Friends, as each of us walk through our own stuff, may we fight the temptation to look at our neighbor’s story in envy and instead, may we praise the One who chose each of our journeys with utmost care and wisdom.
May we remember that there will be no mourning in heaven (Revelations 21:4); but while we are still on this earth, might we choose to help shoulder the grief of our fellow sojourners.
May we not see another’s joy or sorrow as taking away from our own; and instead, might we put another’s life before our own, following the footsteps of the Author and Perfector of our faith, trusting in the righteousness of Christ alone, and relying on the Holy Spirit to do it all.
Let’s not look at a snippet of another’s life and arrogantly believe we see the whole picture.
This weekend, may we all trust our Creator to do His job; simply determining that we will rejoice and mourn in the corners He has called us to do so in- knowing that they are not opposites but rather partners in helping us see God in all things, at all times, in all ways.
Each of our stories plays a valuable role in the kingdom of God, and no details are wasted when His perfect hand holds all.
All glory go to Him and Him alone, with infinite reason to always rejoice in His provision and love for us.
Thanks be to God.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planning of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”- Isaiah 61:1-3
“The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light, but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light and your days of mourning shall be ended…I am the Lord; in its time I will hasten it.”- Isaiah 60:19-20, 22b