Weep AND Rejoice
Tuesday - March 23rd
Devotionals from the Book of James
Scripture to Read Today: James 5:13-20
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.
Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.
A week ago today, a 21-year-old man killed eight people in three massage parlors in the Atlanta area. During his arrest at a traffic stop 150 miles south of Atlanta later that evening, the young man told officers that he saw the parlors and those who worked there as sources of sexual temptation for him and had to eliminate the temptation. While the story contains many sad and complex layers, and each layer prompts hundreds, if not thousands, of questions, the shootings brought deep grief to many people.
We could spend a lot of time debating the killer's intent, the impact on the Asian-American community, gun control, etc. But the example of Jesus and the teachings of the New Testament layout for us as followers of Christ just how we should respond. Our gut response should not be political, philosophical, or even theological. It should be one of Christlike empathy and compassion for the victims' families and all heavy-hearted by what transpired.
James concludes his letter to the church scattered around the Roman Empire with a focus on prayer. He begins the section on prayer by echoing the spirit of what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:15. "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." James 5:13 conveys the same idea but with our response to our own lives' highs and lows. "Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise."
When we or others experience blessings in life, we should praise God and rejoice together. When we or others experience heartache in life, we should pray to God and weep with each other. One thing that strikes me in both James 5:13 and Romans 12:15 is that we are not told to rejoice or weep after a lengthy investigation that determines the legitimacy of rejoicing or weeping together. We are not called on to cry with someone who is hurting only if we can validate the reason for their weeping. When someone we know is weeping, we weep with them. When we are hurting, we pray.
In the last year, I have been asked on several occasions if it is proper to pray for ourselves or weep with others if we believe the reason for the pain is frivolous or deemed illegitimate. The answer is simple. If you are hurting, pray to God. If you are happy, give praise to God. If someone you know is rejoicing, rejoice with them. If someone is crying, cry with them.
We do not need the whole back story of what happened in Atlanta to weep legitimately with those who feel the weight of these senseless murders. Our hearts should be broken for the families and for all who feel the pain themselves. That is what Jesus would do!
Jesus met people where they were circumstantially and emotionally. He did not expect them to be somewhere "they should be" in life before he would meet them. He started where people were and guided them from that place to the place they needed to be. Do you impose expectations on others? Or, do you meet them where they are? Do you confine yourself emotionally, or do you freely express your ups and downs to your God?
If you are hurting, pray. If you are happy, praise God. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.