The Transformed Life – Weep With Those Who Weep – Part 1
Note: This is Post # 14 in the series titled “The Transformed Life” based on Romans 12. Please click here for previous posts: POST # 1, POST # 2, POST # 3, POST # 4, POST # 5, POST # 6, POST # 7, POST # 8, POST # 9, POST # 10, POST # 11, POST # 12, POST # 13
As we continue in the series of the transformed life, this post deals with the second part of Romans 12:15, “mourn with those who mourn” or “weep with those who weep,” as some other translations render it.
Few things bond us together in friendship like sorrow. Think about your past and, in particular, those moments when you experienced heights of joy and those moments when you walked through the deep valley of darkness. Now, think of the people who were with you during both of those times. Which ones do you remember more? The ones when you were beside you when you were celebrating or the ones who were with you during those times of great agony? If you are like me, it’s most likely the second one. We tend to remember more those who were beside us during those dark valley experiences; those who were there with us when tears were our food day and night. The following story highlights this fact.
A lady in Charleston met the servant of a neighbor. “I’m sorry to hear of your Aunt Lucy’s death,” she said. “You must miss her greatly. You were such friends.” “Yes,” said the servant, “I’m sorry she died. But we were not friends.” “Why,” said the lady, “I thought you were. I’ve seen you laughing and talking together lots of times.”
“Yes, that is so,” came the reply. “We’ve laughed together, and we’ve talked together, but we are just acquaintances. You see, we never shed tears together. Folks got to cry before they are friends.” [Taken with adaptation from Barclay, Romans, p. 168].
While that last statement may seem a bit extreme, the point is still valid. The bond of tears is a bond that brings people together in close friendship, and it is a tight bond to break! Yet, the sad reality is that as fellow Christians, even though we are called to be in fellowship with one another, i.e., to share our lives, which means to share our joys and sorrows together, we have failed in this area of sharing our sorrows. We rarely bond closer with others by sharing in their sufferings.
If we are honest with ourselves, there may have been times when we’ve been guilty of secretly gloating over the suffering of someone—especially if they have offended us in some manner. Sort of “he or she got what was coming” attitude. Do you know how God feels about such an attitude? Proverbs 17:5b gives the answer: “whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.”
God calls us to participate in the sufferings of others. Just as we are called to rejoice with those rejoicing, we are equally called to weep with those who weep. Mourning or weeping means feeling the sorrow and pain a fellow believer experiences as if it were our own. To love our neighbors as ourselves involves sharing their joys and sorrows as if they were our own! That’s what fellowship or sharing our lives with one another means.
God is a God who weeps.
Just as God rejoices with those who rejoice, he also weeps with those who weep. In Isaiah 63:9, we read, “In all their distress he too was distressed.” God was pained at the pains his people, Israel, were going through during that time. By weeping at the tomb of Lazarus [John 11:35], Jesus not only identified himself with the sorrow of Mary and Martha, whom he loved very much, but also over the grief that sin had brought into this world.
We are also told in Luke 19:41, “As he [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” He wept over the very city that would kill him shortly! This emotion of Jesus is very much in keeping with the heart of God in Ezekiel 18:32, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” God is one who even grieves over the death of his enemies—those who reject him and thus perish. It will not be wrong to say that our God is a weeping God—contrary to the so-called gods of the world who know no sorrow!
Do you know how God views our tears? Psalm 56:8 gives us a clue: “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?” The footnote has an alternate rendering for scroll, and it goes like this: put my tears in your wineskin. Wineskin refers to a container or bottle. A bottle was something that people in those days used only to put precious things. So, David, in essence, says that his tears were so precious to God that God would put them in a bottle. That’s how God views our tears!
Our God is a caring God. Just as he rejoices when one sinner repents, he also weeps with his creation. He is not a distant God. Instead, he is a God who feels our pain! And since we are called to imitate this God [Eph 5:1] and are being transformed into becoming more like his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ [Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18], weeping with those who weep must then become a part of our Christian life as well! And to do this well, I want to look at how we can apply this command from Romans 12:15b in our daily lives.
How to weep with those who weep.
Below are 10 things to consider. 5 fall under the category of What Not To Do. And 5 fall under the category of What To Do when weeping with those who are weeping.
What Not To Do
1. Don’t tell them to get over it. We should not tell them to stop crying all the time. At times, we need to say to people to be strong. We need to urge them to be more positive and lean more on God’s strength and his promises. No doubt about it. But we must do such things after we have shed a tear or two with them.
We must not be insensitive with our words to those who are hurting. Proverbs 25:20 says, “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” When someone is going through deep agony, we must be careful not to add to their wounds. That’s the point!
Sometimes, it’s easy to get irritated with those suffering. And often, that irritation comes through in words. Imagine how hard it is for the suffering one to have more hurt thrown at them. Remember Job’s friends? How much more pain did they add through their words to one who was already in great pain?
2. Don’t promise full deliverance NOW. Statements like: God will heal you fully; You will get a better job; You will get another baby; You will get a spouse. Don’t make promises that God himself has not given. Can God do all those things mentioned earlier? Yes! But has God promised to do so in every situation? No! We are not omniscient. We cannot and dare not play God!
While it is an excellent motive to try and make the suffering person feel better, the means to accomplish it also matters. Violating Scripture and thereby making false promises is not the proper means to be employed. In addition, if God does not bring that complete healing or that better job, the one suffering will have to endure even more disappointment. And that’s not helpful to the sufferer!
Yes, complete deliverance is coming—but that is in the future when Jesus returns and sets up his kingdom. We can assure them of that promise. But until then, we have to help them embrace his will for their present life, even if that involves suffering. We can remind them of God’s presence even during that suffering and encourage them to keep looking to him.
3. Don’t compare their suffering with the sufferings of others. This is where we tend to point out to the sufferer about those suffering more to make them feel better. “You have pain in your ankle. I know someone who fractured their ankle.” Really? How does that make one feel? I should be happy that I didn’t break my ankle and not express my suffering. A person’s suffering is not a small thing to them at that time. It’s better to say, “I am so sorry you are going through this suffering.”
4. Don’t judge them. Once again, Job’s friends come to mind. Statements that imply, “You are suffering because of your sins,” even if they may be true sometimes, must not be stated as absolute truth. We must not play God. That’s pride. Yes, sometimes, a word or two to encourage them to examine their lives for sin may be appropriate. But even that should be done after we have genuinely mourned with them and have earned their trust. Proverbs 12:18 warns, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Our words ought to bring healing, not pain!
5. Don’t avoid them. Sometimes we don’t know what to say to the hurting person. So, we avoid them altogether for fear of offending them. Or we don’t like to be around suffering people. It’s too depressing, and we don’t want to go through such feelings. Even when watching TV, we tend to change the channel very quickly if some sad news comes on. Like the Priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan who walked on the other side when they saw the beaten man [Lk 10:31-32], we tend to do the same when we see suffering. We must stop doing it.
So, 5 things to consider not doing when seeking to obey God’s command to weep with those who weep: (1) Don’t tell them to get over it (2) Don’t promise full deliverance NOW (3) Don’t compare their suffering with the sufferings of others. (4) Don’t judge them, and (5) Don’t avoid them.
In the next post, we will see What To Do when it comes to this command of weeping with those who are weeping.