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Subdued Celebration

What happened to "weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice" (Rom. 12:15)?

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15, NKJV) 

The holiday season is underway. Thanksgiving this month, Christmas the next. Soon the new year will be upon us and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will roll around. 

Surely, causes for celebration. Maybe, but there are those who will tell us to keep it down. Thanksgiving is a family celebration. There are those without families. Christmas might be full of festivity but there are those who find the season utterly depressing for one reason or another. 

And when it comes to Mother’s Day, what about those who have never been able to conceive or those who have had a child die through miscarriage? Perhaps we need to make every woman an honorary mother for the day or not celebrate the day at all lest we offend or alienate or stigmatize someone. 

What happened to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15)? 

It's all reminiscent of King David and Absalom. Absalom had maneuvered to usurp the throne of Israel from his father David. He masterfully won the hearts of the people and David chose to flee in the face of the threat. David reasoned: “If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back…. But if He says thus: ‘I have no delight in you,’ here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him” (2 Sam. 15:25–26). 

Absalom established himself in Jerusalem in David’s place. By God’s providence the army of David would prevail over the army of Absalom. But David, upon hearing the news of his son’s death, fell into deep despondency. His words betray his anguish: “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” (2 Sam. 18:33). 

Even victorious, David’s army dared not enter Jerusalem with their heads held high to shouts of exaltation. Instead we read: “So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, 'The king is grieved for his son.' And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle” (2 Sam. 19:2–3). David would not even come to the gate to greet his men and acknowledge their victory. 

It was only at the rebuke of Joab, David’s general, that David emerged from the darkness of his own grief to publicly celebrate the victory of his men and acknowledge their achievement. In so doing, as Joab explained, David expressed love for his men (2 Sam. 19:6) and appreciation for what God had brought about. 

Something is amiss among us when we cannot rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn without pitting one against the other or diluting either. We need to allow others their moment in the spotlight, full blare without dimming the lights. God gives one as well as the other. If God so wills to bless, as He did with Rachel and as He did with Hannah, let the trumpets sound, congratulations be poured out, and cries of thanksgiving raised to God. If God withholds, let us show compassion, express comfort, and cry out to God for contentment in any and every circumstance. 

Not that we are to be insensitive to the plight of others, but there must be some way to celebrate the blessing of the Lord in the lives of others, particularly those who share the worldview of God’s providence and believe that He does all things well. Rejoicing is not found at the expense of the other but in recognition and submission to the hand of God. Rejoicing is the byproduct of being content in any and every circumstance. 

Whether rejoicing or mourning, the exercise of love for one another is to determine our attitudes and actions. “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Rom. 12:9–12). Each aspect contributes to empathy for others and directs us in our response.

Love involves recognizing the state of others, being sensitive to their lot, and drawing near to walk with them. With those who weep, we weep. With those who rejoice, we rejoice. Like celebrating the promotion of a coworker to a position we desired, we feel the hurt but we revel in the blessing of others. And if that promotion comes to us, we would want others to join in rejoicing with us. 

“Our Father in heaven, help us embrace Your providence and maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 

  1. What challenges and obstacles do we face in rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn?
  2. How does Romans 12:9-21 direct us in authentic love of others?


Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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