By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
What makes a hard season even harder? When your friends and close ones seem to get everything you've prayed for in the past few months (or years, or decades): a home, a steady and fulfilling job, a marriage, a pregnancy announcement, etc.
So we screw our faces into the best smiles we can muster and say, "I'm so happy for you." But are we really? Or do friends avoid telling us the good news in their lives because they know we'll slump our shoulders and throw a pity party for ourselves?
I can certainly think of a few friends along the way—who will remain nameless—who I purposely avoided telling any good tidings. Why?
Because they'd immediately shove their hands into their pockets, sigh, and say, "Wow, I wish that would happen to me."
So how do we avoid becoming this friend? How do we experience true joy (Colossians 3:15-17) for our friends who seem to accomplish or receive the very things we've yearned for without trying to hold back tears? Let's dive into some of the things to keep in mind.
Tip One: Remember, Everyone Has Mountains
I have an author friend who I couldn't be prouder of. She has gone through so much. But when she friended me on social media, and I saw her picture-perfect profile, I assumed the opposite. She finally messaged me at one point and said, "Instagram lies. I'm living with my parents, after having a fiasco with some former apartment-mates. I can't land a steady job, work until my eyes hurt from staring at the computer screen, and I can't seem to land another publishing contract, even though my agent has tried so hard."
So when she got a contract from Harpercollins (a HUGE publishing house) I didn't harbor resentment. Why? Because I knew which mountains she had to climb to get there.
Jealous of a couple who just got engaged? Who knows how many fights they've endured? Or how many heartbreaks they experienced before this.
Mad at a woman who just got her dream job? She probably got her resume rejected hundreds of times and had to work jobs she hated too.
Everyone has mountains. Even if it seems like something landed in someone's lap, that seldom ever happens. In fact, I don't think I've run into a case in life where event moments like that didn't include some hardship the person had to endure.
Tip Two: God's Timing Works Differently for Everyone
Sure, he bought a house at 22. And you, 46 years old, still live in an apartment, saving up.
One of the most important things to remember is that God sets us on different paths. Some of us have to trek up mountains during certain seasons. Others enter into deep, dark valleys (Psalm 23).
God doesn't want us to compare our lives with others. After all, he uniquely crafted the plan for your life. It would make no sense for you to follow the trajectory of someone else's.
I know that often people can get snagged in this tip because outside pressure and influences say that we have to get married by a certain point, have kids by a certain age, retire by a certain year, etc. And believe me, I want to shake those people who perpetually try to force their timeline onto God's plans for you. Many times I do.
But remember that only God's opinion matters, no one else's. People jeered at Hannah for not producing children (1 Samuel 1). Then God, in his timing, gave her a son who would change the history of Israel forever. Scripture is littered with stories of people who received flack for not accomplishing something by a certain age.
Tip Three: To Be Exalted, You Must Exalt
Matthew 23:12: "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
Romans 12:10: "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves."
There's something I tell every writer, advice many of them tend to ignore. "If you want to sell your books, you need to promote other authors." At first, it doesn't make sense. Many authors will selfishly invite all their author friends to like their pages—and refuse to like theirs. Or they'll slide into DMs and ask authors to buy their books when they have no intention of getting the books of their friends.
And this marketing fails every time.
Whereas the authors who regularly share the work of others, who tag their author friends on social media, who cheer on writers when they get contracts, seem to do the best. Why?
Take a look at the two verses above. We exalt others and outdo one another in honor. When this happens, we see that we reap what we sow.
The same goes for difficult periods of life. No one wants someone to comment, on a wedding engagement post, "Gee, if only a guy would finally pay attention to me, maybe I could get married too." Therefore, we should experience joy for our friends when they have uplifting moments because we would love for them to do the same for us. Wonderful and hard seasons exist for everyone. So why not celebrate with a friend when they finally emerge from a dark valley into a place of splendorous light?
Why Should We Uplifting Our Friends in Our Darkest Moments?
Apart from the easy answer, "Because it's biblical" I think it shows us the true test of friendships. Everyone can treat friends and family well when everything goes right in life. I've seen it happen. People treat others to dinners, call more on the phone, etc., when they feel the thrill of God's timing.
But our truest test of character comes when we undergo rough patches and watch others flourish. How do we respond? Do we try to one-up them, take away the spotlight from them, or throw ourselves pity parties to steal attention from them? Or do we celebrate with them, like the older brother should have done when the prodigal son returned (Luke 15)?
Your day in the sun is coming. We all undergo beautiful seasons. So for now, be so joyful for your brother or sister who is experiencing theirs now. You know you'd love for them to do the same to you when your time comes.
Photo credit: Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.