Hi everyone. Rob here.
In Romans 12:15 the Apostle Paul writes this:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
This is one of those sayings that’s easy to say and much harder to do. The hardest part is the rejoicing. Mourning with those who mourn is emotionally draining. That’s simply the reality. Loss is hard. I’m not just talking about people dying, but also marriages, jobs, and dreams. As you sit with people in grief and in pain, and as you enter into that pain yourself, you will be drained. It is very hard to do for too many people at once. Bad news becomes increasingly harder to take, yet, you don’t want to check out or avoid it. In the midst of mourning with those who mourn, how can you possibly rejoice with those who rejoice?
Fortunately we are not asked to do this in our own strength. It is Christ in us who gives us the capacity to empathise with our brothers and sisters. It is Christ who takes our burdens and sets us free to serve one another in love. It is the Holy Spirit who reminds us that we are in Christ and to remain in him in all circumstances. The Spirit also helps us to guard our hearts and stop us from diving into despair or hopelessness. Paul writes this in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18,
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
This sounds unrealistic at first. Paul, though, isn’t telling us to give thanks for all our circumstances, but in our circumstances. That means we must be giving thanks for something deeper and more permanent than our circumstances. I suggest that we are to give thanks for being in Christ no matter what the circumstances are. Paul writes in verse 10 of that same chapter:
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
Through Christ we are given union with God. We have a permanent, unshakeable, place in God. It is an act of grace so beautiful that it is meant to sustain us always. In Christ we can grieve and lament, but we remain in Christ. In Christ we can celebrate and be glad, but we remain in Christ. It’s as we bring our full selves into this union with God, that we can receive his grace and healing for our full selves. In particular, it’s as we learn to bring every movement of our heart into this union, we discover that our hearts can expand and gain greater capacity for compassion and love.
I am a slow learner on this one. The biggest obstacle to my surrender is that I want to fix things. I am slowly learning to give things over for God to repair in God’s good time and in God’s good way. I am learning to let go of outcomes and focus on my place in him and walking with him daily. I am learning to ask that the eyes of my heart be opened so that I can see every person and every circumstance through the eyes of Christ. If we learn to trust that God is truly good, we can take our place in him knowing that we rest in that goodness. This is what gives us hope in tragedy and true joy in happiness.
May the God of peace bless you this week as you give your heart over to him.