REJOICE WITH THOSE WHO REJOICE
Two events took place this month that brought the truthfulness and the blessings of the words above to the forefront. The first was a tragic event. A family I have known for 16 years lost their 18 year old daughter in an automobile accident. They asked me to preach the funeral. Even though I have been preaching for almost 30 years, I have never preached the funeral of one so young and one who was lost under such tragic circumstances. It was very difficult to find the words that would provide comfort for this family. I tried my best to let "the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:4-5) express the words that needed to be expressed, for only He has the wisdom and knowledge to do so. During the service, I could not help but weep for the loss this family was experiencing. After the services a preacher who was in attendance at the funeral said to me, "you know, I've learned to control my emotions when something like this happens." I may have taken this statement wrong, but I felt like I was being reprimanded for crying during the service as a result of the deep feelings of sympathy that I felt for this family. Could it be that some of us preachers do what others who see so much suffering and pain (like medical personnel or policemen) do? We distance ourselves to the point that we no longer feel sympathy for those who are hurting, suffering or grieving? I must confess that I am guilty of this. Through the years that I preached, I did distance myself from those who were experiencing these kinds of things. It seemed to hurt too much, to be too overwhelming at times. However when we do this we fail in our responsibility to "weep with those who weep" and miss out on the great blessings that God provides for us during these times.
Romans 12:15 is in the context of presenting our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). Weeping (crying) is not just a physical action. When our tears flow, it is a physical reaction to thoughts and feelings which originate in our minds or our spirits. Weeping with those who are weeping is a truly spiritual experience rather than just a physical one. It is using our bodies as living sacrifices to express sympathy, compassion and love for those who are hurting and grieving. In Romans 12:2 Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world (Greek. age). The age we live in is selfish and self-centered in many ways. If we fail to weep with those who weep because we want to avoid being hurt ourselves, are we not conforming to the world of selfishness and self-centeredness?
Each person has to handle grief and his associations with others who are grieving in his own way. I don't want to be misunderstood. Just because a person does not cry outwardly does not mean that he does not grieve for and have feelings of sympathy for those hurting and grieving. However, when the Bible says that we are to "weep with those who weep" and we put up a wall between us and those who are weeping, we surely miss out on great blessings and fail in our responsibility to them. No matter how much it hurts, we need to learn to weep with those who weep.
As in every other area, Jesus is the supreme example of "weeping with those who weep." In John 11, we have the record of one of Jesus' closest friends dying. That friend was Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead for four days before Jesus arrived at his home (John 11:17). Jesus first met with Martha, Lazarus' sister, who ran out to meet Him when she heard He was coming (John 11:20). After a brief conversation with Jesus, Martha returned to her home and told Mary, "The Teacher has come and is calling for you." (John 11:28). Mary at once went out to meet Jesus, but those who were gathered at her home who were grieving with her followed her. The Bible says that, Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. (John 11:33). It was at this time that the Bible says, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). In the Jews eyes, this was evidence of how much Jesus loved Lazarus (John 11:36), but it was also evidence of the great sympathy that Jesus had for the loss that Mary, Martha and their friends and family had experienced. The expression "he groaned in the spirit" is used twice (vs. John 11:33, 38), no doubt expressing his great sympathy and emotion in regard to the loss of this loved one. Surely, Jesus set the example of "weeping with those who weep."
The second event involved good friends and fellow Christians who are members of the congregation where we worship. A congregation of God's people I might add who truly care about each other. This couple was told by their doctor that he suspected that the wife had cancer. I know many people in the congregation prayed earnestly for her as she faced surgery. There was not a prayer that was led publicly in our worship services that did not mention her. And I know that many of us prayed fervently for her privately. As it turned out, what the doctor thought was a cancerous growth was only fluid from a previous operation and there was no cancer at all! What rejoicing! What joy! What relief! What a joy it was to rejoice with them in this good news! To "rejoice with those who rejoice" is one of the greatest blessings God has given us on this earth.
Yes, there are sad events that
take place that cause weeping, but there are also joyous occasions that cause us
to rejoice. What a blessing we are missing out on when we fail to
those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice."