It was 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning that we got the call from a fearful husband letting us know that his wife was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital with pain and hemorrhaging in her sixth month of pregnancy. Since the first worship service wouldn’t begin until 9:15 a.m., we were out the door and off to what we knew could be a very difficult hospital visit.
What do you do when a fellow church member gets the news that, at 26 weeks of pregnancy, their unborn baby no longer has a heartbeat? What do you say? How do you face someone who is facing the induced labor and delivery of a firstborn, stillborn child?
It was 6 p.m. on a Friday night that we met the young couple from church who had invited us out to dinner. We talked and laughed and caught up on each other’s lives over delicious food at a nice downtown restaurant. Toward the end of our meal, they asked us a riddle of a question regarding their reproductive life. We were stumped until they revealed that they were pregnant for the third time, but this time without any help from medical professionals – something we all knew had never been possible for them. We were stunned – joyously so, of course, and they were, too – though still reeling from the completely unexpected and happy surprise.
What do you do when a fellow church member gets the shockingly good news of a seemingly miraculous pregnancy? What do you say? How do you enter into their surprise and excitement?
Responding to Others
For some of us, both of these scenarios feel daunting. The pressure to respond accordingly and authentically can often feel very intimidating. For others, depending on their gifts and temperament, one situation is easier to navigate than the other.
The apostle Paul has advice for all of us, though, and while it may seem simplistic, it’s also profound: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15)
Romans 12 is preceded by eleven chapters of God’s glorious redemption and then continues with the command to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God in worshipful response. Paul goes on to talk about what this should look like in church life: the exercising of our spiritual gifts, devoting ourselves to brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor, contributing to the needs of fellow believers and practicing hospitality toward one another.
By God’s Mercy
Admittedly, both of the above situations were daunting for me. As one prone to perfectionism and insecurity (the sin of self-sufficiency, really), I fear not doing it right, making a mistake, adding insult to injury or not showing the proper amount of emotion. Every crisis or blessing on someone else’s part presents an opportunity for failure on my part, but I’ve learned that in trying to live out Paul’s vision for the church, risking failure is better than risking neglect.
The key to the sacrifice of rejoicing and weeping is in the first verse of chapter 12: by the mercies of God. Offering physical affection is a struggle for me, so it was not by natural tendency that I was able to stroke the hair and kiss the forehead of the one in the grievous process of losing her firstborn child – it was by His mercy. And it was certainly not due to a naturally gregarious personality that I was able to laugh and cry happy tears at the news of a surprise baby – it was because of His mercy.
Jesus’ command that we love one another as He has loved us, thereby demonstrating His love to the world (John 13:35), seems impossible and even unfair when we considering doing it with our own limited strength and skill. Thankfully, when He calls us to offer ourselves a living sacrifice, to devote ourselves to others and to rejoice or weep according to a brother or sister’s need, He also provides the means: His mercy.
Melanie Krumrey is a pastor’s wife, serves as the women’s ministry leader at MERCYhouse church in Amherst, MA, and blogs at www.dwellabideadorn.com.