Thursday, July 17, 2014

Experiencing Joy and Sorrow with Others

Last week we were able to enjoy a relaxing week on the beach with family and friends to celebrate my brother, Jarod, and his now wife Anna’s wedding. I am always overcome with joy when I get to see two people who are so perfect for each other pledge their love for one another. 

Here are some of my favorites of the happy couple…

Because weddings are such a happy moment in life, much like having a baby, I can’t help but think about those who are hurting. Those who want so desperately to meet their soul mate but are still feeling so alone. They are happy for their friends who are getting married, but still feel envious at the love they long to have. They feel the clock ticking by slowly and are constantly reminded on social media sites what they don’t have. 

And then those who have found their true love feel terrible for being happily married while many of their friends are still waiting somewhat impatiently for their happy moment to arrive. 

Sigh. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around why on earth some of the happiest moments in life have to be so hurtful for others. 

Sorrow is such a personal experience. You try desperately to put on a happy face and maintain composure when you are really breaking inside. Your friends and family may use all their effort to comfort you, but complete human empathy just isn’t fully possible. They cannot get inside our skin and experience what we are truly feeling. 

And their ability to comfort can wear overtime as well. As much as they love you and are willing to do everything humanly possible to comfort you, it helps, but it will never be enough. 

Joy is much like sorrow in a way. Joy may only be truly felt in isolation or with those who are directly experiencing the same thing. There will always be those who just cannot experience this joy with us. 

“The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy”
Proverbs 14:10

There is only one who can fully experience life with us and that is God. Only God can provide us with real empathy. He experiences our highs and our lows to the same degree that we feel them. 

But how do we overcome the barrier so that no one has to feel as though they are walking on glass? 

I have to say that over the past year I have experienced many days where I felt numb after hearing another pregnancy announcement or sadness whenever I see a woman’s pregnant belly. I remember one day waiting for Marcus to get off work sitting in the hallway at the entrance to our hospital and noticing that about every other woman was pregnant! I’m pretty sure my prayer went something like this, “God, are you serious right now? I am so weak right now that all I can do is laugh. Please make the next 10 people to walk by me be males”. 

It has been a struggle for Marcus and I to figure out how to have true happiness for those around us who are pregnant or have been blessed with children. The grieving process has been long and hard and leaves us feeling weak and exposed. Of course many of our friends are in the stage of life where they are starting a family and it has sometimes left us feeling envious or bitter when we too want to be where they are.

But we want our friends to experience the joy they deserve. After all, if we were blessed with a child, we would also want to post pictures on Facebook of our little bundle of joy. We don’t want our sorrows to effect another’s happiness. We love our friends dearly and want to rejoice with them when God decides it is their time to be blessed with a baby, without so much sadness. 

It took me a while, but I finally realized that the only way I would feel true happiness for those around me, was to ask God for it. My prayers were always focused on asking God to relieve me from so much envy, jealousy, and bitterness…. but what was I doing to overcome these sinful feelings? I was dwelling in my own sorrow. I began to ask God to feel true happiness in the blessings of others and I honestly feel like He is answering my prayers. I don’t want to be excluded from some of the most important moments of my friend’s lives because they are experiencing joy and I may be experiencing difficulties. 

Can I say that I don’t ever feel a moment of sadness when I hear another pregnancy announcement? No. And I don't know if my heart will ever heal completely. But looking at where my feelings were a year ago to where they are now, I can see that God has done tremendous work in my heart and helped me to rejoice with true happiness. 

And though I know joy can leave us wanting to burst out with excitement, not everyone is capable of experiencing that joy right beside us. We have to be conscious of the feelings of those around us, taking special care to those who are in times of sorrow. Knowing that God is rejoicing with you is comforting enough. 

So whether you are single and waiting to find your true love, longing for a little blessing of your own, or waiting to land your dream job-  no matter if you are experiencing great joys or deep sorrows, know that you are not alone, and that God is with you every step of the way. 

Open your heart to Him and ask Him to let real happiness overflow within you. 

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans”
-Woody Allen