Rejoicing With Others
Shared joy is a great expression of sympathy. We typically use the word sympathy to describe a shared grief—but it applies to joy too.
We understand sympathy when we use it in a sentence, but the word itself can be difficult to define. So consider its opposite: apathy. If apathy is akin to saying, “I couldn’t care less,” sympathy is akin to saying, “I couldn’t care more.” Sympathy is an identification with the experience of another person.
Many of us find it natural to “weep with those who weep.” It is instinctive for us to enter into the disappointment and pain of those we love and to cry at the sight or thought of their sadness. This is a good thing, for to “bear one another’s burdens” is to “fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). To enter into the joy and success of others, however, is often the greater challenge because it requires us to work against the grain of the fallenness of our human nature, which is prone to resentment and bitterness. Instead of someone’s success serving as an occasion for us to bless God and thank Him, it so easily becomes an occasion for envy.
Most of us know how to avoid expressing envy. But there is a massive difference between not expressing envy and not feeling envy. We can modify our behavior enough to keep from showing it, but it requires spiritual transformation to get us to the point of not feeling it. This transformation begins with a right understanding of our identity as members of Christ’s body. Paul says that “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). To be in Christ means we are members of Him and of one another.
To put this another way: if we are in Christ, we are all on the same team. When we grasp this, it will be as natural for us to enter into another’s joy as it is for a soccer player to rejoice at their teammate’s game-winning goal in just the same way as if they had scored it themselves. As God’s people, we win and lose—we enjoy and we grieve—together.
God’s word calls you to “let love be genuine” (Romans 12:9)—and genuine, Christlike love conforms your feelings so that jealousy gives way to joy and apathy to true sympathy. Is there anyone who you are standing aloof from in some way, either in their joy or their sadness? Have you considered whom you could encourage today? There is almost certainly someone who needs you to reach out and let them know that you are with them, praying for them and there for them as they walk a deep valley. Likewise, there will be someone whose joy you can share, and you can simply let them know that you praise God for His favor on their life. Be someone of whom it can increasingly be said, “They couldn’t care more.” Ask the God of all compassion and comfort to work in you by His Spirit to mold you into that person today.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
God of All Comfort
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.1 6If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
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