A good friend recently began to tell me about her glee in having finally found “the one.” But half way through her story, she stopped and said, “I’m nervous to tell you this because I know that you also desire to be married…”
I understood her fear. We’ve all been there. Scrolling through our newsfeed of all the happy people who just got married, had a baby, bought a new house, landed that perfect job, and our first thought should be “Oh I’m so glad for them,” but it’s really more like, “Can you just stop being so damn happy?”
But as my friend was stopping to add that disclaimer to her story, something within me leapt with sadness. Not the sadness that she anticipated, but a sadness in the fact that she would stop sharing her joy in fear of making me sad.
There is something terribly wrong with this reality. God says we are to share in each other’s sufferings AND joys. And if my good friend can’t tell me one of the happiest things in her life in full confidence that it will be received with joy, surely something is wrong.
Why is it so hard to share in other people’s joy when we have yet to receive the desires of our own hearts?
I believe there are 3 reasons:
- We do not pray enough. Although I’ve been guilty of the Facebook- angst- scenario described above, I did not feel the same way at all when my friend was sharing her joy. In fact I was bursting at the seems with delight alongside her. Why? Because I’d been praying for her every single day since she first told me of her desires for a husband. I’ve seen friends be healed of all kinds of sickness and one would wonder how I can rejoice while my prayers to be healed of chronic pain are still not answered. But my joy level always correlates to the amount that I’ve been interceding. When we pray for others continually, their prayers become our prayers. And thus, their answered prayers become our answered prayers too.
- We’ve forgotten our deepest desire. When a prayer gets answered, it ought to produce two thoughts. First, that we are excited to have what we wanted. But secondly, that our Father is kind enough to give us what we desire. If we stop only with the first thought, then when someone else gets a prayer answered, we will surely be left pondering, “Why didn’t I also get what I wanted?” and our joy is dependent on our ability to live vicariously through another person. But if we continue on to the second thought, that of the kindness of the Father, it is almost as if we don’t need to have our own prayers answered, because, in seeing the answered prayers of another, we can skip to the final conclusion. For our deepest desire is not simply to have our prayers answered, but to know that the God we pray to is kind enough to answer us. When we allow the answered prayers of others to really draw us into that reality, then our unanswered surface desires suddenly seem so small in comparison to knowing that our deepest longing, to know God, has been fulfilled.
- We don’t pray enough. But one may wonder, isn’t that rather like self-martyrdom? To just ignore our own desires and say that the answered prayers of a friend is enough for us? If we stop there, then yes, yes it is. But what we ought to do is let the answered prayers of another and the conclusion that God is indeed one who loves to answer us, spur us into a kind of intensity of praying for those things which we desire as well. If we do not let that spur us into prayer, then surely we are hypocrites: saying that we’ve concluded that God is good and yet not asking him for the things that we want. When my 5-year-old nephew asks his mom for cookie and he receives it, my 3-year-old niece does not sit there and say, “oh I’m so glad that mom is nice enough to give my brother a cookie.” No, she quickly jumps up and squeals that she wants one too. But it is not a squeal of defeat in that her brother’s request was answered and hers was not. It’s a squeal of delight because she knows in full confidence that she will be given what is good as well. When we see others get good things, it ought to first lead us to revel in the goodness of our parent, but then quickly lead us to our knees.
So don’t stop sharing your joys. But remember to share about the God who gave you the gift as much as you share about the gift itself. We need to take each other regularly to the deeper place of longing.
And don’t stop listening to the stories of answered prayers. If jealousy creeps in, don’t see it as a sign to stop listening. Rather, it may be a sign that our prayer lives are not as full as they could be.