• Eldon Peterson

Getting Over Ourselves


I was recently thinking of Paul’s words, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and wondered, “Is it harder to rejoice or weep with others?” My initial thought was that it would be easier to rejoice with those who rejoice, but when I considered what this would mean, I realized that this might not be easier. Let me explain.

Suppose your friend gets a new car or goes on your dream vacation. You know that you should be glad for them, but you may find it challenging if you see yourself lacking. Maybe our car is not running so well and you cannot remember the last time you went somewhere fun. Will it be easy for us to rejoice with them? We know the right answer, but envy may make it difficult.

Likewise, the couple that is childless, may long to rejoice with their friend who announces they are expecting or those desiring to be married may struggle with always being the bridesmaid and never being the bride. They know that they should rejoice, but their friend’s blessing simply accentuates their own lack.

Maybe it is easier to mourn with those who mourn. However, what does it mean to weep with those who weep? Here too we wrestle to find an answer. Often, instead of offering comfort we simply compound our friend’s tears with simplistic words. While being well meaning, we are a bit like Job’s friends who sought to “comfort and console him,” but instead Job says, “I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you. But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” (16:2-5)

To mourn with our friend calls for us to offer more than simplistic words. It requires us to come alongside them to help bear their burden and to remind them that God understands, God cares, and that God is near at hand to comfort and help. We can speak God’s promises to them as well, “Fear not, for I am with you… I will strengthen you, I will help you” (Isaiah 41:10).

So, “Which is easier?” Neither, for both are impossible when our eyes are fixed on ourselves! It is only when we look to Christ, taking our eyes off of ourselves, that we can, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:2-3)

Paul continues telling us that we can understand what this means by looking to what Christ did for us, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (6-8)

We can know what love looks like by looking to what Christ has done for us. In him, we learn how to find joy in another’s rejoicing and how to weep for the loss of those that we love. As Christ looked to our need in becoming a man, we too need to look to the needs of others if we are to rejoice or mourn with them. As long as our eyes are on ourselves, we will always fall short.

Hebrews 12 tells us that this can be done by, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Who for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.” (2-3)

YOU are His joy. It was for YOU that Christ endured the cross so that YOU may live. If Christ did this for sinners like us, can we not put aside our egos to love and care for our friends? We can if we will remember all that Christ has done for us and then we will find that rejoicing and weeping will come naturally!


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