I’ve been learning a lot about the art of rejoicing with others lately. And I’m learning it as I walk through a painful loss in my own life. As I watch friends and family receive what was taken from me, temptation weighs heavy upon my shoulders. It’s a temptation most of us wrestle with and many of us give in to.
I recently wrote about how comparison is really just a glorified word for envy. Comparison comes from a covetous heart. It’s a heart that says, “I want what she has.” or, “Why didn’t God give me that too?”
And it’s damaging to a friendship.
Why Not Me?
At some point in every friendship, there will be one gal who receives what the other has been dreaming of. Whether its a husband, a baby, another baby or an opportunity you want, she has it, and you don’t. And it’s hard.
Our hearts naturally curve toward envy. When this happens, something rises up within us (sin perhaps?) that makes us feel as though God has been unjust–that he’s slighted us in some way. If our friend got what we want, don’t we deserve it too?
Unfortunately, the bible isn’t too keen on our envious thoughts…
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV, emphasis mine)
Furthermore, no, we don’t deserve anything good from God because we are totally depraved. (Romans 3:11-12).
In order to put off envy and truly be happy for our friends, we must have a correct theology of God’s goodness and sovereignty over our lives. We must develop a trust in him that runs so deep into our being, it causes us to recognize that what God gives and what he withholds is his ultimate best for our lives.
If your friend receives that positive pregnancy test after your miscarriage, that is his goodness to you both.
If your friend receives a diamond ring at 22, while you look at your bare finger and yet another year of singleness, that is his goodness to you both.
We will never move past the temptation to compare our lives with others until we have a solid trust in our good Father who always chooses the best way and the best gifts–even the ones that don’t look so good to us.
Rejoicing With Your Sisters
It takes strength that is not our own to rejoice with a friend in her receiving of what we want or what has been taken from us. Thankfully, the strength we need is found in Christ, and he longs to transform us by his power into women who can truly rejoice over the gifts of another.
He enables us to have true joy in our hearts for our friend even as our hearts are breaking.
He doesn’t call us to pretend we aren’t hurting. He draws us near, and asks us to bring our sorrow, grief, weariness and confusion to him. And then to simultaneously be overjoyed for the gifts he’s given others. And we can do this, by his grace.
There’s Much At Stake
In my group of friends at church, I am one of two couples who haven’t had children yet. This didn’t use to bother me, until I lost our baby through miscarriage. Now, the emptiness of not only my womb, but my arms as well, have become a burden I bear every Sunday. Recently, a few of my friends stood, babies in hand, chatting about motherhood, as I stood in a corner fighting back tears. Though they were doing absolutely nothing wrong, instead of rejoicing with them, I felt bitterness grip my heart and envy fill my veins.
Thankfully, the Lord cut through the sin in my heart and reminded me of truth. He guided me back to a place where my heart was willing and ready to worship him for his gifts to others.
If I had not listened to his call to repent, if I had stuffed the conviction down, envy would have destroyed my friendships. My feelings, which turned to thoughts, would have sooner turned to hate-filled words, and then harmful actions.
I would have isolated myself, avoided them, not celebrated with them and eventually the relationships would have dwindled away.
Comparison kills friendships.
This is the way sin works. It breeds death to everything around us.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 ESV)
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:1-2 ESV)
Friends, we have to learn to rejoice with our sisters in Christ even as our hearts break. There is so much at stake. Even the very picture of the Gospel. We are the Body of Christ, and it is not a suggestion, but a command to both bear each other’s burdens and rejoice together.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 ESV)
When we praise God with a girl who is receiving what has been withheld from us, we show Christ to the world. We show how the Gospel can transform sinners into a people who truly weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. A people who love others more than themselves. A people following in the footsteps of Christ.
And in doing so, we will build thriving friendships that point others to Jesus.