KERRY ANDERSON | GUEST
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Rom. 12:15)
When it comes to opening my mailbox, May is almost as exciting as December. Graduation announcements come in as a close second to Christmas cards among the favorite mail I receive. I love seeing the creativity of the cards, the carefully chosen, personality-reflecting senior pictures, and the promise of the future. I adore reading about the various accomplishments and next steps and I get extra excited when there’s a party invite in there too! I can just sense the beaming smile of a mamma as she addressed them all. And if you’ve ever mailed me one, know that your announcement sat in a special basket and was prayed over until dethroned in December by that first holiday card.
When We are Better at Mourning than Rejoicing
We’re heading into that end-of-the-school year season when our mailboxes and social media feeds are full of announcements of not just graduations, but also awards days, state championships, senior trips, college acceptances, job acceptances, and let’s not forget engagement and wedding season too! With so much to celebrate, you’d think we’d be masters at it. After all, our God is a God of many feasts and celebrations and in Psalm 35:27, it says He “…delights in the welfare of his servant!” And yet sometimes, those weddings, or graduation announcements, or pictures of a child with an honor roll certificate stir up less than God-honoring thoughts and emotions in us. Though it’s a command to rejoice with those that rejoice, our heart can be the enemy to living that out.
My then college-aged daughter once noticed this among her peers. As we pondered what we’d both seen, we concluded that often the people of God are better at mourning than rejoicing. Leaning into support, lifting up in prayer, and bringing a meal are actually easier than being a champion for, celebrating, and truly finding joy in someone else’s experience of blessing.
We rush into comfort and rescue, but we hold back from honoring and encouraging. We don’t send a congratulations text because we didn’t get that thing we applied for that month. We don’t ask a friend how her son’s wedding went because we weren’t invited. Or we don’t serve on that committee because we had hoped to be the chair. Maybe our child didn’t get into the college of her dreams or make the honor roll. Maybe our graduate can’t articulate what the next step is yet. Maybe you long to be married so attending another engagement party has a sting to it. Maybe your adult child is moving overseas while your friend’s is moving right around the corner. Those are the realities of life and in our over-connected online world, it’s not going away. Which is why we have the imperatives of Scripture to meditate on when our thoughts, hearts, and eyes drift from our eternal focus.
Rejoicing in God’s Work
We as believers ought to be the happiest cheerleaders ever. Why? Because rejoicing in another’s bounty is rejoicing in the Lord’s work and design. In Romans 12, we have the command to rejoice, but we also have the antidote to the self-focus, envy, covetousness, jealousy, or loneliness that hinders us from rejoicing with others. In verses 1-8, we’re commanded to humble ourselves and make our bodies a living sacrifice to the Lord. After renewing our minds and cleansing them from worldly thoughts (v. 2), we’re to assess our position and function in the body of Christ. Verses 4-8 shine light on the fact that we are all created uniquely, have received different gifts, and are called to use them accordingly. And not just use them, but to use them cheerfully (v. 8)!
When we learn this about ourselves, and then trust God for how he has given us all different gifts and means to live out our faith, we can go on to love genuinely (v. 9). What does it mean to love genuinely? It’s all spelled out for us in verses 10-21, but let’s grab on to verse 10 specifically. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” We should literally compete with each other to win first place in honor-giving! Imagine if we got blue ribbons for that! John 13:35 says that the world will know we are Christians by our love for one another. This love is a selfless, sacrificial love. We lay down what we wanted, what we hoped for, what we wish we had, so that genuine, affectionate Christian love can lead us to rejoice with our friends.
My daughter and I decided to start our own unofficial “Ministry of Celebration” and outdo one another in showing that honor to others. We encouraged each other to put on the humility that only Christ can help us put on. Then, we challenged each other to a duel in honoring others. We made it a point to ask others about the good things in their lives or comment on a recent win they had. She sent her friends encouraging texts or Venmo-ed them $5 for a Starbucks after finishing a difficult final. She sought to congratulate others who were selected for something she applied for and didn’t get. I sent cards and notes to friends, joining in their happiness for everything from kindergarten graduation to new babies to a new home. I stopped students in the church hallways to say that I saw that video of their piano recital or soccer goal or Senior speech and was grateful to God for giving them their gifts. As Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 1:2… “We give thanks to God always for all of you…”
So, in a few weeks, I’ll be here checking the mail every day for those graduation announcements (and hopefully party invites too). Send me one so we can rejoice together!
Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash