“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15, NASB95)
This verse is pretty straight forward, or so we would think. But amazingly enough there are times when we might have trouble with either of these. Rejoicing with those who rejoice is sometimes hard to do when we are weighed down by something or maybe when the thing that has led to their rejoicing is something in which you are having difficulty finding joy. And weeping with someone who is weeping is very difficult unless you can also share in hope.
Rejoicing with someone means entering into joy with them over something, and there are times when we have difficulty doing so. There are times when our hearts are heavy and we want to withdraw in order to not impact the joy of the other. It may very well be because we are in a time of weeping or mourning (grieving) and rather than rejoicing with another we might need someone who would compassionately weep with us.
But it may also be that we are having a joy problem with God and we need to get our hearts and minds back on track. James tells us to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials…. (James 1:2-4). This does not mean that our response of joy is automatic, but is one that we actively grab onto by turning our eyes on God and knowing His constancy, faithfulness, goodness, and love. It is found in trusting Him and grasping tightly the hope that we have in Him.
It may even be because they have been blessed in some tangible way and we are sorrowful that we aren’t and maybe even are struggling in that same area. This can actually serve to turn our hearts against the individual rather than toward them. But we probably all know that God loves each of us, our needs, and what He intends for each of us to accomplish His good purposes and our good. God does not do exactly the same for all of us, and admitting this to God and thanking Him for His faithfulness is a good start in our entering into the joy of others.
And there are times when the thing in which the other person is finding joy is not something which is in line with God’s word and expressed desire. In our culture we are being told to find joy in the freedom that each person has to find themselves whatever that might be. But the paths they choose are not ones that lead to salvation or are right for those who are saved in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 13:6 we read, “[Love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;” (1 Corinthians 13:6, NASB95)
Real joy is found in truth, and being willing and able to join into God’s truth with others is truly a cause for rejoicing even in the darkest of times. But the verse goes on to say, “weep with those who weep.” This year we have seen a great deal of hurt around us with the passing of numerous loved ones and other changes to people’s lives. We are so relationship oriented that when we are separated from someone we love it hurts and we mourn. But when the person who died is a believer in Christ, we know that their physical death has gained them entrance into the eternal presence of God. In this we still grieve, but we can do so differently because we have hope with our hurt. It is this hope, even in grieving, in which we are to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
The heart of this verse is that we are to be there with one another, and we are to be willing to enter with them in their rejoicing and their weeping. This is a two-way street which we are to do with each other realizing that sometimes our joy may be turned to weeping and at other times our weeping turned to joy, but at all times our hope is in our God. It means being attentive to the needs of others and sensitive to respond as God enables us.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–7, NASB95)