When I was eighteen, my dream was to become a doctor. I had been offered a place at medical school if I got certain grades in my A level exams, so waiting for the results was a nervous time. When the time finally came, I was away from home, helping with a Scripture Union holiday camp. With butterflies in my stomach, I walked some distance from the campsite to the nearest phone box to find out how I had done. Praise God – it was wonderful news - I had got the results I needed!! I could go to medical school! I could realise my dream! All the hard work up to that point had been worth it.
Joyfully I returned to the camp, where the leader came to meet me. “Had I just got my results?” she asked. “Yes – I got the grades I need for medical school!” “Well done”, she said, and then with a concerned look on her face, she continued, “there is another girl on the volunteer team who also got her results today. She didn’t get the grades she needed and is upset about it. Please keep quiet about your success, so she doesn’t feel worse.”
Feeling rather deflated, I crept back into the camp, now almost ashamed of my news and I didn’t tell anyone else. For the rest of that week, I felt rather strange. An element of sadness coloured my joy and I felt very alone. I had wanted to rejoice with someone; in fact, I needed to rejoice with someone, but now I couldn’t. The people around me were weeping with the one who wept, which was right, but it wasn’t the whole story. The one who rejoiced also needed to rejoice with someone.
We don’t often think of this, but we do have a real need to rejoice, and to do it at the time when we feel joyful. Like the woman who found her lost coin and called all her neighbours to rejoice with her (Luke 15:9). That is why today’s verse tells us to rejoice with each other. It is really important that we acknowledge all our emotions and find a rightful outlet for them. That even includes our joy.
I recently celebrated the fulfilment of another heart’s desire, which at fifty-two I thought could never happen - I got married to the most wonderful man (cue cheers and trumpets!!). What a delight it was to celebrate with friends and relatives at the wedding. Their presence brought such happiness. It meant so much to us that they came, some from a long distance; their presence truly filled our hearts with joy! It was a great reminder of how celebrating together really builds our relationships.
The Lord knows how important it is that we share in one another’s lives, especially at times of need or times of celebration. Both are equally important. In practice, most of us find one comes more naturally to us than the other. Which is your strongest? Weeping with others or rejoicing with others? If one is easier for you, why not ask God to help you with the one you find less easy?
Do you know someone who is going through a crisis or a loss in their life today? Or a person whose weeping is ongoing, perhaps because of chronic pain or a longstanding illness. Could you take a bunch of flowers today, a card, a visit, a phone call or a word of encouragement?
And does it seem equally important to rejoice with those who rejoice? Could you accept that party invitation, attend that celebratory event, post that birthday card, make or buy that gift you thought of but haven’t got round to yet? Has a friend or family member achieved something recently? How could you celebrate it with them?
I like the way the Voice translation puts today’s verse: ‘If some have cause to celebrate, join in the celebration. And if others are weeping, join in that as well’. These are the things that build our relationships and make the people around us feel valued.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for all the people in my life. Please help me to be alert to the times when they need someone to celebrate or weep with them. Help me to leave enough space in my schedule, so that I will have time for others when they need me. Thank You, Amen.
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