Grace to rejoice (when everything says not to)
She and her husband are now proud parents to three precious little ones: my godsons, ages (almost) 4 and (almost) 2 years, and the new little princess.
They are thrilled and so am I…and that, my friends, is no small miracle.
You see, I met this friend when she and I were both single. I was a three-year old Christian and she had been saved for less than a month. We were thick as thieves, us two, and she was my answered prayer. I had asked God to send me friends, people with whom I could share more than just that mandatory 15-minute post-church chit chat. And along she came.
We hung out, worshipped together and served together in ministry. We spent record numbers of hours talking on the phone. We looked out for one another. Encouraged one another. I was thankful for this good gift that was God’s provision to me.
Then one day, a couple months after we met, she met this wonderful, handsome, gentle guy and within months they were married. She got pregnant on her honeymoon, a testimony to God’s healing power (she was told by a doctor that she could never have children), and so, within nine months of being saved, she had gone from being single to being a wife and mother. Four years later, she is now a beautiful, Christ-honouring wife and mother of three.
And I am still…single.
My life story as a Christian looks nothing like hers. Following the subsequent heart wreckage due to a broken engagement early in my life in Christ, I have remained single and this past January marked eight years since Jesus revealed Himself to me and I accepted Him as my Saviour and Lord.
During those eight years, I have been confused many times about God’s plans for me and the ways that He is working in my life. I’ve listened to many well-meaning married folks tell me why they believe that I am not yet married and I’ve had to fight for joy in the midst of grappling with their advice – advice that more often than not seemed to produce condemnation and not the much needed encouragement. I’ve also had to fight against bitterness towards persons who said hurtful things in their ignorance of what it is like to have an extended period of singleness as a Christian. It is really hard to compare six months with six years of waiting.
It’s amazing how consistently and how effectively time is a revealer of the human heart. In my difficult moments, I have pitied myself, I have envied the seemingly perfect lives of others and I have even accused God of withholding His good gifts from me. At other times, I’ve asked Him to take away the desire for marriage and a family. At yet other times, I’ve set my mind to accept a lifetime of singleness as my cross…a cross which I saw as grievous and which I believed would ensure that my joy could never be full.
While waiting though, God has been changing me. While I waited, God cultivated in me a heart for the alone and for the lonely. He has purified my faith in Him, my trust in Him, my love for Him. He has given me the opportunity to establish my heart and my identity as one who loves the Giver far above His good gifts. He has gently pushed me to embrace the tension of true faith where you choose to still trust God to come through, even as the weeks and months and years pass by and are used by the enemy as taunting evidence of his lies that God is not interested in my heart’s desire and is withholding good things from me.
But, let me get back to today’s celebration. Today, as my friend rejoices over the birth of her baby girl, I can rejoice with her…wholeheartedly. There is no sting of jealousy or self-pity or bitterness to interfere with my rejoicing. I am happy that God is blessing her and I am thankful for His good gifts in her life.
Please understand that my response is not a natural response. I am positive that I could never respond this way no matter how hard I tried. My outward show might fool others but my heart would condemn me because on the inside, bitterness would be raging.
The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans that we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief].” Romans 12:15 (AMP)
You see, it’s much easier to weep with those who weep. For most of us, we can weep and share in the grief of a perfect stranger – even imagined grief when we watch a touching movie.
But it takes the power of the love of God in the heart to be able to genuinely rejoice with those who are rejoicing. It’s the very reason that many people confess that they are often reluctant to share good news. They don’t know if the person they want to share it with will genuinely be happy for them.
It breaks my heart that this exists among us who are believers in Christ. If we are in relationship with Jesus, we should find it easy to rejoice whenever and wherever we see the blessings of God being poured out.
I’ve often wondered how God sees this. I believe that, at the heart, this is an issue of not knowing who we are in Christ and what we have in Him. It’s an issue of not knowing how God feels about us and who we are to Him.
I sometimes imagine that it’s as if a father gave one of his children $1 billion dollars and two cents while giving another child $1 billion dollars and three cents. The father would be confounded to think that the child who got one cent less would allow the difference of one cent to cause him to question his father’s love instead of both children rejoicing in their newfound enormous wealth! How often do we, as children of God, allow these “one-cent” gifts to separate us from the love of Our Heavenly Father who has blessed us with his priceless salvation and with every spiritual blessing!
I am reminded that it is the power and grace of God on my heart that allows me to wholeheartedly celebrate the blessings of God in the lives of others even while I wait for the manifestation of those same blessings in mine. The secret is in realising that I am ALREADY blessed of God and He has already given me more than I could ever deserve in this life!
So today, I choose yet again to be my friend’s personal cheerleader. I choose to be that person with whom she can share her joy, without hesitation.
And as she often reminds me, one day it will be my turn and she will be first in line to rejoice with me.