William Barclay said: “It’s more difficult to congratulate another on his success if it involves disappointment to us, than to sympathize with his sorrow… Only when self is dead can we take as much joy in the success of others as in our own.” Karen Ehman’s home had been for sale twenty months when a friend called to say hers sold in twenty days. Ehman says: “Although I was thrilled…I was a tad jealous…that ‘poor me’ mentality when God answers someone else’s prayer and my answer seems to be ‘no,’ or ‘not right now.’ As a child I envied kids from two-parent homes…in high school it was other girls’ looks and cute clothes…I was average looking, and although I was every guy’s pal, I was nobody’s gal. In college I envied girls whose prayers for a knight in shining armor were answered…Once married, I struggled with miscarriage and dashed dreams of motherhood…I slapped a smile on my face and attended yet another baby shower. The cure for envy isn’t easy…but when you call on God He will ‘tell you…things…you could [never figure out on your own]’ (Jer 33:3 NIV). Instead of begging Him to sell my house, take away my pain, and fix my kids, I need to ask what He’s trying to teach me that I won’t learn if He rescues me; and what qualities He’s trying to grow in me. God’s willing and able to answer our prayers as He sees fit…[His goal is] growing us to be more like His Son.” Paul writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” To be Christlike, you gotta be able to do both.
Tom was very depressed following his wife Elle’s death. For an hour he poured out his heart. Now, catharsis is good; it can show you what needs to be dealt with. But talk alone doesn’t change anything. So his counselor asked, “If the situation was reversed and you’d died first, what would you want Elle to do?” Immediately he replied, “Go on and enjoy life.” The minute he verbalized it a light within him came on and he said, “I’ve been feeling sorry for myself too long. We both hated it when people did that. I’m going to live, find purpose, and get back to church.” He did, and next time Tom and his counselor spoke he had begun to rebuild his life. The pain was still there, but he’d started to transcend it by taking action. Freud taught that the subconscious mind could be freed from painful memories by psychoanalysis. But his premise was faulty because memories, good and bad, remain part of you. Plus, his theory can lead you to believe that your problems can be talked to death without ever having to do anything about them. Some people get through their grief faster than others; sadly, some people never do. But you don’t have to be one of them! God said, “I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.” God can reframe your past and give it meaning. He can help you to look back with gratitude, then forward with confidence. How? By transforming painful memories into powerful motivators and sources of future wisdom. Ask Him; He will show you how!