When it comes to adding value to others, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt was from my good friend Lauren.After 18 weeks of keeping the news to ourselves that we were pregnant we decided to announce one Sunday that we were expecting. Our social media went wild as people celebrated with us- our secret was out.
That night I received a call. It was Lauren. At this point in time we knew each other but, mostly at a ministry team level. We were not really at the ‘call for a chat’ stage in our friendship. She had been at church that night but not had the opportunity to congratulate us.
As I saw her number flash across my screen I momentarily forgot the news that we had shared earlier that day and was ready to step into church mode. Instead her call had a significant impact on me, one that changed me from that day forward.
She had called simply to congratulate us. She could have just waited until the next time she saw us, sent us a text, or posted a comment on social media but instead she went outside of her norm to rejoice with us. As a result of her call I felt I had even more reason to rejoice. Our news felt even more special and I felt like she ‘saw’ me.
That night a seed was planted within me that has continued to bare much fruit as I have followed in Lauren’s footsteps. Every time I hear of someone in my world who has a reason to rejoice; new jobs, new homes, engagement, babies I remember how I felt and I want to rejoice with them.
We can do the same with bad news. For many years I avoided people during times of bad news for fear of not knowing what to say. Deep down I knew my words would never do justice in the face of illness, disappointment or great devastation. I would feel compelled to do something but all I could do was cringe at all of the cliche phrases would pass through my mind:
“God works all things together for good.”
“God has a bigger plan and purpose I’m sure.”
“We don’t always understand why things happen this side of eternity…”
All true statements yet, somehow they feel like a kick in the guts when we are mourning. So, I would just allow sad situations to pass me by and say nothing. It was easier than stumbling over words that just didn’t cut it.
A number of months ago on a Thursday morning I was in our church foyer setting up with a team for a womens gathering later that day. As we were preparing I began chatting to another member of our congregation and they began to share how their week was going. Sadly a young member of their family had gotten sick and suddenly passed away unexpectedly out of the blue.
I had no words. I just listened in complete shock and felt helpless.
My own pastor had entered the conversation by this point and I stood back silently as I wondered what profound God breathed words He would have to meet such legitimate mourning. They came and they were indeed profound…
“I am so sorry to hear that.”
But perfect in every way.
He simply acknowledged the situation was terrible. The circumstance didn’t need a word from God, an encouragement to ‘look on the bright side,’ or anything that attempted to push the person past their current feelings and move on with life. My pastor was just there, he listened and acknowledged the pain.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. (Romans 12:15)
When we rejoice with those who rejoice, or mourn with those who mourn, we are showing that we care, that people’s lives mater to us. Our phone calls, messages, cards and actions show that we see them and their feelings are valid. We need not hold back for fear of what to say, we just need to step out and be present in the moment. Sometimes the best response is just to listen and show that you have heard.
Rejoice when the moment calls for rejoicing and don’t be afraid to mourn with someone either.
Next time you hear news that is outside of the everyday, try doing something out of your norm. Call them, show up on their doorstep, go outside the lines of what is expected.
This blog is part of a 21 day worship devotional series titled ‘A meander through Romans 12. You can subscribe here.