"Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).
I have long felt guilty before that exhortation. I do not weep easily. I remember visiting an older woman in the first year of my marriage, when things were going badly. I started to cry in her kitchen and she cried with me. It was so touching, and I have always wanted to be like Marge.
But today I noticed something wonderful. As I was taking my walk, I was thinking about a friend of mine who has entered a season of suffering. She is a well-to-do woman, a Christian, is healthy, has a good husband, doesn't need to work for a living, gets to travel a lot to interesting places, and has good kids. And I was feeling sad for her. No "schadenfreude," just pure sorrow.
This never would have happened in the old me. Like the Velveteen Rabbit who noticed he had become real, I felt happy today to see that my heart could be broken.
In True Spirituality, Francis Schaeffer saw this homely little emotional issue as the very litmus test of all spiritual life:
". . . [W]e should love men enough not to envy, and this is not only envy for money, it is for everything. It can for instance be envy of his spiritual gifts. There is a simple test for this. Natural desires have become coveting against a fellow creature, one of our kind, a fellow man, when we have a mentality that would give us secret satisfaction at his misfortune. If a man has something, and he loses it, do we have an inward pleasure? A secret satisfaction at his loss? Do not speak too quickly and say it is never so, because you will make yourself a liar. We must all admit that even when we get on in our Christian life, even in these areas where we say we are longing for the Church of Jesus Christ to be more alive in our generation, often we have this awful secret satisfaction at the loss of other men. . . .
"When we say we live in a personal universe and God the Father is our Father, to the extent that we have less than a trusting attitude we are denying what we say we believe . . . we are exhibiting that at that moment, in practice, we have not really so chosen [to believe]. . . . As the Holy Spirit makes us increasingly honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that often we have a dislike of a person because we have had wrong desire toward something of his. . . .
"These are the areas of true spirituality. These are the areas of true Christian living. They are not basically external; they are internal, they are deep; they go down into the areas of our lives we like to hide from ourselves. The inward area is the first place of loss of true Christian life, of true spirituality. . . ."
Some people are easy criers and some are not; that's just how it is. God only desires that we have pleasurable inner reactions when good things happen to other people, and unpleasurable inner reactions when bad things happen to them. This is doable only as we believe God loves us, and that having His love, we have everything. A love like that is powerful enough to change our natures.
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.