Mother's Day is this Sunday, and I'm not a mother yet.
Last year, I remember turning to my husband at church on Mothers Day, beaming as I whispered, "Just think! Next year, I might actually BE a mother!"
I thought I would at least have a bun in the oven by now. But that wasn't God's plan. Not for this Mother's Day at least.
And so, this Sunday, I will go to church, surrounded by cooing babies and doting mothers. And while I'll be tempted to sulk in my circumstances and wallow in my heartache, I hope to "rejoice with those who rejoice." (Rom. 12:15) A lesson that God has been teaching me for some time now.
The truth is...my flesh doesn't want to rejoice with those who rejoice. It doesn't want to attend another baby shower or look at thousands of baby photos on Facebook or listen to the great "baby wise" debate.
"Because," says my flesh, "if I don't have one, then you shouldn't either."
But thanks be to God who has saved me from my own flesh! I am now able and equipped to rejoice with those who rejoice because "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Because of Christ, I don't have to wish away anyone else's happiness. I am free to rejoice with those who rejoice.
But what exactly does rejoicing with others look like?
Before I talk about what it looks like, I think it might be helpful to talk about what it doesn't look like.
Over the past few months, I've learned that rejoicing with others doesn't mean masking or stifling your own suffering.
It's okay to hurt. It's okay to long for a baby or a husband or a job. It's okay to weep. Romans 12:15 tells us to "rejoice with those who rejoice," but it also tells us to "weep with those who weep." It's okay (and actually good) for others to see us weep so that they can be obedient to weep with us. The bible tells us to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2). By hiding our suffering, we aren't allowing the body of Christ to function as it's intended to.
Rejoicing also doesn't mean just getting by with the cultural etiquette. For awhile, I thought that going to baby showers, cooing over babies and discussing cloth diapers was me showing my friends that I was rejoicing with them. And those actions, in and of themselves, aren't bad. But when those social conventions aren't paired with a rejoicing heart, they aren't good either.
You see, rejoice doesn't actually mean to "show joy." It means to be joyful. If we are trying to show joy without being joyful, we've missed the point.
So back to the initial question...what exactly does rejoicing with others look like?
In Psalm 92, we see what it looks like to rejoice:
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
The psalmist shows us that real rejoicing is about rejoicing in God--in who he is and in what he has done.
We rightly rejoice, then, when we join with our fellow believers in giving thanks to the LORD and singing praises to his name.
We rightly rejoice when we see and declare his steadfast love, faithfulness, and other divine attributes.
We rightly rejoice when we are made glad by what he has accomplished.
Take a moment to think about what this might practically look like in your life. How can you rejoice with those who rejoice?
For me, it might look a little something like this...
Thank you, God, for your good gift of children. As your word says, children are a blessing from you. You are the author of life, and I praise you for so intimately knowing and creating these little ones and for so intimately knowing and creating me. I pray that they will grow up to experience the true, everlasting life that is found in you. I rejoice in experiencing your great redeeming love in my own life and pray that these little ones will one day know your faithfulness and will see your steadfast love as displayed on the cross. I thank you for graciously making your great name known to yet another generation.
You see, rejoicing isn't about being glad in those around us. It's about being glad in God with those around us. When we focus our gladness on who God is and what he's done, the "me vs. them" mentality disappears and an "us" mentality takes its place. Because the gospel isn't just about God redeeming me, it's about God redeeming a people, an "us", for himself.
Let us rejoice together in our great God...
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Eph. 2:4-9
Thanks be to God.