“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
I’ve been pondering this verse a lot lately as I’ve been learning to hold joy and grief in my heart at the same time.
Earlier this month I got to celebrate the growing family of a dear friend of mine and a couple weeks later I was able to celebrate the marriage of another friend. It is so exciting and such a blessing to be able to be a part of these events. I get to be an honorary aunt to another amazing little human. I get to see a friend’s prayers answered. It is simply wonderful!
I am at an age, now approaching my mid-30s (gulp!), where these festivities have become almost common. But I never want to lose the awe and joy I feel about the creation and growth of so many new families through marriage, adoption, and births. Each of these life events is not only a celebration for the people directly involved but for all who know and love them, and especially their brothers and sisters in Christ as we see the gospel played out in each of these life events. In marriage we see demonstrated Christ’s love for the church as we await our bridegroom’s return and our ultimate wedding feast with Him. When a family grows through adoption we remember how we have been adopted into the family of God through Christ’s sacrifice. With new births we recall how we are re-born, a new creation in Christ.
At the same time other dear friends have been struggling with broken marriages, prolonged singleness, infertility and illnesses. I am right there with them, single, childless and facing the very real possibility that I may never have children of my own. So I am also compelled to grieve alongside those who saw a hope for their future taken away and dreams changed. These stories too have a gospel message to share. When marriages break we can see a picture of the covenant we humans so often broke with God, such that he sent his Son to die for our sins. In prolonged singleness we see a picture of anxious anticipation for the return of our Bridegroom. In infertility we can be reminded of God’s care for the widows and the orphans, and the miracles He brought about in the lives of so many biblical women believed to be barren. And in illness we can turn to the Great Physician who will bring healing to us all, here on Earth or in the next world when our bodies are perfected. Pain here and now is a groaning that points to our ultimate and complete redemption (see 1 Corinthians 15).
As God says in Genesis, “It is not good for man to be alone”. Whether in celebration or mourning, we were made for community. It may be cliche, but we were intended to do life together. Often it is easier to celebrate, we enjoy the good feelings we get when we celebrate a baby shower or a wedding. We need to be just a present in times of sorrow too.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
There is a time for everything, but the tension often comes when the seasons overlap, a time for weeping for one may be a time to rejoice for another. The Holy Spirit must make my heart bigger in order to hold space for joy and grief to coexist.
Have you experienced this same tension? How have you dealt with holding space for two such strong and diverse emotions at once? Share your experience in the comments.