(This post about knowing how to rejoice with other people – to celebrate when someone else has a win – ran earlier this week over at Club31Women.com, a place where you’ll find all sorts of good things for yourself and your family. I’m sharing the message again today, partly in case you missed it but mostly because there’s no such thing as too much cheering for one another!)
“Friendship doubles our joys and divides our griefs.”
I’ve read that quote countless times over the years, starting in high school when my English teacher chalked it on the top right corner of the blackboard.
The thought made sense to me then, and it dovetailed neatly with what Paul wrote to the Romans when he explained what love should look like in everyday life: “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” he said. “Mourn with those who mourn.”
Now, some forty years removed from that English classroom, I still believe friendship—loving others well—has the power to multiply joy and divide sorrow. But I wonder why we’re so much better at the second part of Paul’s command than the first. Why do we find it easier to weep with a friend when she’s hurting than to magnify her delight when she has a win?
Maybe it’s jealousy: We want what she has.
Maybe it’s insecurity: We compare ourselves and feel like we don’t measure up.
Maybe it’s a critical spirit: We know who she is; she doesn’t deserve the blessing.
Or maybe it’s fear: We worry, somehow, that if God showers his gifts on somebody else, he won’t have enough left for us.
Whatever the reason, the Bible is full of examples of folks who loved well—who entered into each other’s joy—and those who didn’t.
Consider how Elizabeth greeted Mary, when the young mother-to-be showed up at her house. “Blessed are you among women,” she cried, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43) Elizabeth could have been bitter or jealous (Why had it taken her so long to conceive? Why hadn’t she been chosen to bear the Messiah?), but she wasn’t. Instead, in humility, she shared Mary’s joy, fueling the younger woman’s faith with affirmation and blessing. What a gift!
On the flip side, there’s David’s wife Michal, who stared out the window as her husband danced and celebrated when God’s ark came into the City. King David and his entourage—Israel’s elders, commanders, Levites, musicians—“went rejoicing,” Scripture says, but Michal (who found David’s conduct shameless and vulgar) “was filled with contempt.” (1 Chronicles 15:25-29)
Elizabeth became the mother of John the Baptist; Michal remained childless to the day of her death.
How do we become like Elizabeth instead of Michal? Put another way, how do we cultivate a spirit of humility—one that is quick to celebrate someone else—instead of a spirit of criticism and contempt?
How do we rejoice with those who rejoice?
First, we can anchor our identity not in who we are or what we do, but in our status as God’s beloved. God loves us—and wants to bless us—just because we are his, and an awareness of who we are in his sight can keep things like jealousy, insecurity, and fear from gaining a foothold in our lives.
Second, we can pray with expectant joy for our friends, interceding for them when they struggle and giving thanks when they succeed. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Praying for someone else gives you a vested interest in their well-being and opens the door to sincere and generous love.
And finally, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help. We don’t have to worry that he’ll see our warts and our weakness; he already knows all about that and he is always praying on our behalf.
What about you? Where have you found it hard to enter into someone else’s joy? What keeps you from celebrating when a friend has a big win? Confess any jealousy, insecurity, or fears to the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to help you anchor your identity in your status as God’s beloved.
Psalm 112:5 says, “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely.” Let’s be generous with our love, coming alongside others in their hard times and, even more, in their rejoicing.
You can read more about joy-sharing friendships–and how to cultivate them–in Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God.