Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief].
Romans 12:15 AMP
I heard from a dear friend yesterday. She called to ask for prayer because she’d developed severe pain in the aftermath of surgery. Her husband was taking her to the hospital, and she was quietly weeping from the pain. I cried with her, and then I cried some more after the call ended. It’s not an easy thing to weep with those who weep.
Weep With Those Who Weep: The Temptation
The temptation for me in those moments is to go one of two ways: become a friend of Job or doubt God’s goodness. Is my friend a secret Satanist under the judgment of God? Is that why this is happening to her? Or does God not care about her pain? He could heal her instantly, but instead she is suffering. Why?
It’s not easy share someone’s grief cleanly. To weep with those who weep is to partake of their pain and be helpless to alleviate it. That helplessness can be maddening. And when I resist my helplessness, I am primed to muddy the tears. It’s the easiest thing in the world to open the door to doubt and accusation. It’s much easier than holding fast to the goodness of God while surrendering to His will and making peace with His sovereignty. The pain of people we love is a serious testing ground.
I passed a church sign last week that said, “Prayer moves God’s hand.” It seems innocent enough, but it bothered me. It seemed incredibly presumptuous, as if God was a wind-up wizard just waiting for the magic phrase to move. In the light of my grief, I recognize the drive behind it. “I’m not helpless! I can pray and God will move!” But God isn’t a wind-up wizard, so the hidden implication of this statement is that if God’s hand isn’t moved by your prayers, then you’re the problem. Like Job’s friends, few people enjoy being reminded that there are things in life that defy our understanding.
A life of uncertainty is messy, and Job’s friends wanted order and control. If they could figure out what Job did to warrant such suffering, then they could guarantee that it would never happen to them. I am no stranger to that line of thinking. But it’s a very delusional way of thinking, and incredibly shallow as well. On the other hand, making peace with a Living God who allows pain and grief in His absolute sovereignty goes deeper than most of us want to go—especially when someone we love is hurting.
Weep With Those Who Weep: The Promise
Maybe there’s a lot of spiritual warfare when we weep with those who weep. Because while I don’t think it’s true to declare, “Prayer moves God’s hand,” I do think it’s true that prayer moves God’s heart. If I am called to weep with those who weep, but it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, then it’s really Jesus weeping in me. When I cry out to our heavenly Father for the life of my friend, my Priest hears me and responds to my heart. I can’t imagine that Satan, devoid of empathy, is pleased when Jesus and I weep together.
I don’t know how the Lord will move in my friend’s life, but I do know that “He is not a man that He should lie” (Num. 23:19). I know that God is good – the only good. And I am standing on His promise:
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 NASB
This is the work to believe in Jesus Christ, all that He is and all that He’s done. It’s the only work God assigned me, and it’s the hardest work there is. I will weep with those who weep, and I choose to keep it clean by believing in Him.