Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."
As I write this blog today, I can't help but think about the silly journey I have been on for the past six months battling Plantar Fasciitis from a runner's injury early last May. Suffice it to say, it has not been a fun one. I recently had the privilege of enjoying some time with a dear friend who asked me at length about my feet and how my physical therapy is going. I could tell she was very concerned about my situation and truly cared that I am struggling greatly with pain-management and healing. It meant the world to me that she was more concerned about my issue than any of her own--and quite honestly, my issue is not that pressing in the scope of life. But I thought a great deal about this verse in Romans 12 that day, and I thanked God for this friend who has always been the kind of fellow sojourner in Christ to be genuinely happy for me in my successes and joys, and sincerely sorrowful and concerned when I am hurting.
We have all come across people in life like this--faithful friends who place more interest on us than themselves. They are the ones who after spending time with them, we almost feel guilty that we would receive such an undeserved blessing in another human being--someone who behaves as if we are more important than they are. We also feel remorse because we did most of the talking, as is typical in the relationship (these folks rarely want to speak at length about themselves). Likewise, we have probably all met people of the contrary, who seem to bask in our sorrows and mourn selfishly in our joys. These "friends," who disappear or hide when things are good, suffer from the all-too-typical-green-eyed-monster-syndrome, and they would rather play counselor than cheerleader where we are concerned. These are the friends who cannot muster up a genuinely kind word about good things in our life, but place great demand and expectation on us to bask at length in the glory of theirs. Last and on the opposite end of that negative spectrum, there are people whom we could term, "fair-weather friends." They are the ones who only want to be around us when things are good. But once they aren't, they are no where to be found. They have no time or patience for anything less than fun and smiles. But we are called by God directly in His Word to be loyal, faithful friends in every circumstance, regardless of the current situations of others or ourselves. Not just when it feels good to us or is convenient for us. Not just when God is blessing us equally. Not just when things are in our favor.
Though I have truly despised the past six months due to the pain, time, and expense of my injury, I know that the Good Lord has used this for my personal betterment. I know that my empathy for those who deal with constant pain has heightened immensely. My empathy for those who battle weight loss issues due to be unable to exercise has increased significantly (I am still wearing 6 of the 10 pounds I gained last winter, and here we are approaching the good ol' holidays again)! My awareness of how blessed I am to even be able to walk has risen greatly. My appreciation for doctors and therapists and the genuine care and support they give, has gone through the roof. I have come to realize that patience, peace, and self-control are the three Fruits of the Spirit upon which I need to work much harder. Before my injury, I was feeling pretty self-assured that I was working on all the fruits pretty consistently and effectively (funny how a hardship brings out the reality in us)! This injury has brought me to deeper prayer and forced me to rely more fully on God in order to do my work and my ministry. This is a humility all of us need, but to which none of us ever look forward. When you spend the first two hours every day holding onto counters and furniture just to endure pain as you work, you learn humility really quickly. When you lie awake at all hours of the night because your feet are throbbing, you learn to pray harder. As it turns out, feet are pretty important. I won't be taking them for granted again.
So what does my stupid, petty feet-injury have to do with Romans 12? Well, for starters, I am hopeful that I have learned to have more mercy for my fellow believers who are struggling with things--namely health issues. It is easy to be quick to judge others who gripe and complain about their aches and pains until you have them yourself. I am grateful for those who have genuinely cared about me--in my joys and sorrows. I am humbled by friends who are suffering and warring right now with much bigger battles than I, and doing so while exhibiting all nine Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), unlike me. I am blessed that God has provided my needs during this time (physical therapy and orthotics aren't cheap) and allowed me to continue in my work and ministry in spite of my pain. I know my Lord is teaching me peace, patience, and self-control in this journey and He has my best interests at heart--even though there have been days where I am just really weary. He does not desire for me to view this as His wrath upon me (a clear epiphany given to me by Him one day after I threw myself before Him in anger and despair about my feet). Though this is a small but greatly annoying battle, I believe God is also preparing and teaching me things about aging. None of us are immune to that, and in the, "pride of life," I know deep down I was not really wanting to face the inevitability of it. We girls are told in all forms of media that we are supposed to be timeless, and that our lives and looks should show that in every sense of the word. During this second half of my life, I am going to have to learn to deal with health issues gracefully in God's strength--not my own. I am going to have to let go of vanity and the arrogance of youth and life--aging will remove both whether I choose to let them go or not. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "This ain't heaven, folks," and, "There are three things you can count on in life: death, taxes, and change." So though the wrinkle in the middle of my forehead is now deeper from furrowing my brow from pain all summer and fall, I am reminded of how it really doesn't matter. One day all pain, all struggles, and all wrinkles (can I get an, "Amen," up in here?), will be gone forever.
I pray that I can be the kind of friend who supports, encourages, and blesses in joys and sorrows--even when I am hurting or it is not reciprocated. I pray I can be the kind of believer who never criticizes or judges someone else's lot in life until I have walked a mile in their moccasins. Though I have to admit my fear and trepidation about it, I desire for God to continue to prune me to the point where I just love people. But I ask Him now: "Father, please prune me thoroughly, but gently. Help me to be able to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn--regardless of their situation, regardless of mine, and regardless of how they treat me in return. Amen."