Sisters can be good friends
In a few days, we will be celebrating a national holiday—the 4th of July. Although there are many problems in this country, we have many freedoms and an abundance of resources. I’m thankful for all of them.
I’m in favor of celebrations! The ability and the decision to rejoice (be glad) in times of trouble and difficulty is essential for spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health.
Perhaps you’ve never thought of joy as a decision—something you could control. For years, I thought that joy was something I did or did not feel, and that there was nothing I could do about it. I’ve learned that joy is not as much of a feeling as it is a choice. Better said, the choice comes before the feeling. Rejoice is a “take-action” word.
I’ve discovered that there is much that I can do to increase my level of joy. The biggest thing that I must do is to be willing to change. For me, that meant giving up the belief that depression was part of my personality—my identity! After living for years with depression, it seemed abnormal to think of myself as a joyful person.
Celebrating—rejoicing with our friends when they are blessed and allowing them to rejoice with us when we are blessed—increases our joy level. It also energizes us, promotes confidence, and increases our productivity.
There are two ways of looking at what it means to rejoice with your friends: 1) Rejoice with your friends when they have received a blessing or accomplished something worthwhile. 2) Rejoice with your friends when you have received a blessing or accomplished something worthwhile.
Which is easier for you to do? To celebrate with others when they are blessed or to allow yourself to celebrate with others when you are blessed?
Both choices can be challenging. We love celebrating with others when they are blessed. Unless, we feel envious; we want or think we deserve something that our friend has, such as a gift or ability, a promotion, a bigger house, newer car, financial success, marriage, children, or a slim figure. The list of possibilities for envy is endless.
When I was a teenager, I envied my sister. I wanted the favor that she had with certain Christian leaders. Envy made it impossible for me to wholeheartedly rejoice in who my sister is. Being so focused on what I didn’t have, also, blocked me from seeing, accepting, and developing the person that I am. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize the envy in my heart at that time. Thankfully, God revealed it to me and showed me that it contributed to my depression.
My sister and I are twins; we have much in common; both of us write poetry, sing, and play the piano. Yet, we have quite different styles, as well as personalities. Her ability to sing alto and mine to sing soprano is one way in which the difference between us brings joy. Hanging on to envy would have destroyed the “harmony” that in so many ways we enjoy. Though we live miles apart, we are Scrabble buddies and prayer partners.
My envy makes it impossible for me to truly rejoice with my friends or family members in their times of blessing and accomplishments. Their envy makes it difficult for me to share the joy of my blessings and accomplishments.
It saddens my spirit when friends say things like: “Oh, I wish I could be that lucky! I wish I could afford (the whatever) you have. It must be nice to be talented.” It’s very disheartening to receive that kind of a response. At times, I’ve reacted to such expressions of envy and resentment from others by feeling guilty, closing down, and telling myself that my gifts and talents had no value. Those have been sad choices.
Envy makes it impossible for us to rejoice with our friends. In addition, the writer of Proverbs tells us that it’s detrimental to our physical health. “Envy makes the bones rot.” (Proverbs 14:30 ESV) Does this mean that envy is the cause of osteoporosis? Of course not, what a humorous conclusion that would be! This proverb, like so many others, is a principle from which we can make many applications. It means this: envy is destructive to our inner self.
Envy is vicious. I hope that you will join with me in determining to reject that destructive joy-killer and embrace joy. I hope that you will, also, go back and re-read the first post in this series— remain with Jesus. He is the greatest of all joy-givers.
To conclude this seven week series, I’m sharing the lyrics of a favorite hymn
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.
1907 Henry J. van Dyke