Search this blog

Dane Ortlund recently wrote, “Dear comforters of sufferers: Just because Rom 8:28 comes before Rom 12:15 in the canon doesn’t mean it should in your counsel.”

Joni Eareckson Tada talked about this in a recent interview with Marvin Olasky:

When you were in the hospital room, in despair about becoming a quadriplegic through your diving accident, were some comments people made—with good intentions—hugely irritating?

I had many well-meaning friends my age who said well-meaning things, but they were uninformed because the Bible says weep with those who weep. Many friends would say to me, from Romans 8:28, “Joni, all things fit together to a pattern for good.” Or, from James 1:3, “Welcome this trial as a friend.” Or, from Romans 5, “Rejoice in suffering.” These are good and right and true biblical mandates, but when your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, sometimes the 16 good biblical reasons as to why all this has happened to you sting like salt in the wound. When people are going through great trauma, great grief, they don’t want answers. Because answers don’t reach the problems where it hurts in the gut, in the heart.

What does help?

When I was a little girl, I remember riding my bike down a steep hill. I made a right-hand turn. My wheels skidded out on gravel and I crashed to the ground. My knee was a bloody mess. My dad comes running out. I’m screaming and crying. Although I didn’t ask why, if I had, how cruel it would have been for my father to stand over me and say, “Well, sweetheart, let me answer that question. The next time you’re going down the hill, watch the steepness, be careful about the trajectory of your turn, be observant of gravel.” Those would all have been good answers to the question, “Why did this happen?” But when people are going through great trauma and great grief, they don’t want to know why. They want Daddy to pick them up, press them against his chest, pat them on the back, and say, “There, there, sweetheart, Daddy’s here. It’s OK.” When we are hurting, that’s what we want. We want God to be Daddy: warm, compassionate, real, in the middle of our suffering. We want fatherly assurance that our world is not spinning out of control. . . . Don’t you dare be caught rejoicing with those who weep.

View Comments


15 thoughts on “Don’t You Dare Be Caught Rejoicing with Those Who Weep”

  1. JD says:

    We have much more revealed to us than Job had for our comfort regarding the faithfulness and mercy of our heavenly Father. However, our afflicting experiences often continue to be a theodicy exactly the same as Job. So what we want (“They want Daddy to pick them up, press them against his chest, pat them on the back, and say, “There, there, sweetheart, Daddy’s here. It’s OK.” When we are hurting, that’s what we want. We want God to be Daddy: warm, compassionate, real, in the middle of our suffering.”)is not often what we find, and all we can cling to in faith are those promises like Romans 8:28. They should not be used flippantly in caring for the suffering, but they are our Father’s words to us and in them we find real warmth and compassion while we suffer, heal, and look to the final explanation and resolution of unexplained suffering.

  2. Damian says:

    Great words. Thanks.
    Our family and friends have been through hard tragedies also, as many others have. We weep and mourn, but I also remind myself and others, “God is still good. He is always good.”

  3. Glenn says:

    JD: We are told to weep with those who weep, we are not told to keep them at arms length by making Gods promises into platitudes.

    The promises referred to are for the person suffering, not for those looking on to try and make the sufferer feel guilty because they are not rejoicing.

    I’ve been in pain for 11 years and counting and I have had to deal with many so called ‘well meaning’ brothers and sisters in Christ. Sadly, many use the promises to keep themselves from having to face up to what you are going through. That I am not healed makes many uncomfortable.

    I do hold on to Gods promises for without them I would be in a very sorry state indeed.

  4. Joshua W.D. Smith says:

    The context of Romans 8:28 is hugely important, as it recognizes the present futility in creation, and recognizes that God the Holy Spirit enters into our experience of the futility, not to magically transform it, but to add His groans to ours (v. 26).
    -God the Father knows our frame, that we are dust (Psalm 103)
    -God the Son, even knowing He would raise Lazarus from the dead to glorify the Father, weeps (John 11)
    -God the Holy Spirit groans with us in the futility of the fallen world (Rom. 8:26)
    This is comfort, that the Triune God takes our suffering into His own Life…

  5. Guest says:

    I wish I could really feel that God was like a Dad warm, compassionate, real, in the middle of my suffering. I kind of see God as distant and teaching me lesson after lesson on how to not mess everything up. That’s why I have the Bible right?

    1. anaquaduck says:

      God truly is compassionate, we see this in much of Scripture. If it was about not messing everything up then we would all feel that way…what God gives is for our best & He is near to those who seek Him, not necessarily in our feelings.

      The church, functioning as a body is also a way of bringing healing, comfort, encouragement & support. The Bible speaks as much about knowing God’s undeserving love as instructing to do good. We are instructed to endure hardship knowing God is working it for our good…As a loving & truthful father would.

      We all like sheep have gone astray (Isa 53:6) We also have much to learn about ministering to the needs of others.

  6. JD says:

    I agree with your first statement. I stated that verses are not to be used flippantly with those who suffer. I, too, have suffered greatly, personally in my own life, and I also cared for my wife through 3 years of stage 4 ovarian cancer. I understand suffering first hand. I was thankful for any scripture loved ones gave to me. All scriptures are the means that my Father used to care for me and for my wife to sustain and give hope. I do weep with those who weep. I appreciate those who try to help though their help may lack wisdom. I know they cannot grasp the depths of my perplexity and sorrow, but I have learned to thank God for those who are really trying to help and to be patient with those who are far from me in real help. Still, the word of God and especially the well-worn texts like Romans 8:28 enable me to persevere in the frequent and sometimes unbearable groanings of Romans 8:18-25.

  7. Jennifer Burris says:

    None of us would be anywhere without the promises of God. Verses like Romans 8:28 can and are of great comfort. The problem comes when it is not accompanied by weeping with those who are weeping. I wish all brothers and sisters were mature enough to understand that when someone is suffering, particularly with a condition that will last until our parting from this world and our entrance into the next, that what we need someone who will emotionally persevere with us. When someone drops by and quotes scripture and never really engages in a personal and practical way then the scripture thy speak leaves a bitter taste in your soul and he devil certainly uses that to grow resentment in the heart of the person who is suffering. I have six children and three out of the six had autism. I also have chronic health issues that will remain with me apart from a healing from God. I wish I could say I have had the truthful, understanding, shoulder to cry on, but I really haven’t. People do try and I know they are uncomfortable with what they can not “fix”. I don’t want them to fix it. Jesus already has through the power of His death, burial, and resurrection! I need someone to help to emotionally carry the burden. When our brothers and sisters are to afraid to connect in that way they end up leaving us alone in our time of need not unlike how the disciples left Christ alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. Humanly speaking we hurt when we suffer alone. Our God does not ever leave us or forsake us. As humans though it goes a long way to improving are spirit when a fellow brother or sister takes the time to die to self and help to bear someone else’s burden. The help I refer to is a listening ear and sharing in our tears of grief, pain, loss, frustration, anger over sin, exhaustion, and being pushed to limits you know you can not handle without Jesus’ help. Jesus never fails but He did save us for good works (Ephesians 2:10) and it might just be some of our brothers and sisters good works to bear a burden over the long haul with one of our other fellow brothers or sisters. I love what Jesus loves and what He died for! The gathering of all the Saints and collectively becoming the Bride of Christ, God’s chosen people, The Church! To redeem a people for Himself gives God glory! That is what I am after. God’s Glory and our Joy! They are connected and I rejoice in that. I also feel and so do my children and when we are riding another painful wave we are reminded this is not our home and we pray for the end and Christ’s Glorious return! To quote Paul “to live is Christ, to die is gain”. Suffering for the sake of Christ and His Church has grown on me over the years and I can rejoice in that and His promises renew that in me when I begin to falter but The rejoicing does not resemble a broad smile, more like a hint of a smile through a strained grimace and it is wet from tears. If you can not weep with those who weep please pray, pray, pray! It does help.

  8. Thanks for sharing this to us,simple but meaningful passage. I really enjoyed reading this post.

  9. rcjr says:

    While I think the world and all of Joni, and while this may be taken out of context, and the Bible is clear in calling us to mourn with those who mourn, the whole notion that we can either mourn or be joyful is just wrong. The notion that the promises of God are not appropriate at any time, especially in the midst of hard providences, is just wrong. Condemning someone for being sad in their mourning is also wrong, likewise assuming joy and mourning are mutually exclusive. It all clears up, and the whole Bible becomes all ours in all circumstances if we just understand that we mourn with hope, and our hope, in the sadness, is joy.

    1. Richard says:

      Thanks for this correction, RC! It was needed here–and we appreciate the wisdom you have learned through God’s providences in your life.

  10. Flyaway says:

    After 30 years of chronic pain my brothers and sisters in the Lord are beginning to believe it isn’t all in my head. Through the pain God has caused me to turn to Him in prayer for others and to stick to only those things that will make disciples and spread the Gospel. So the pain has worked in my life for good. Maybe it is my age but now I find I can weep with those who weep and feel their pain more than when I had no pain.

  11. martha ellis says:

    Hello. I am a 73-year-old “new” blogger. My blogs are all taken from my experiences. I have taught high school 40 years and am a Sunday School teacher. I have two posts right now, but I would for you to review them. I enjoyed your post on sympathy. The last thing one wants to hear are comments, such as, “I know just how you feel” or “It all will work out for the best” or “It all gets easier later.” When my husband died, there were all kinds of words spoken, but what I remember was the soft patting of my shoulder of my pastor’s wife. She did not speak. She patted my shoulder for at least an hour, hugged me with tears in her eyes and left. It meant more to me than anything!

Comments are closed.

Search this blog


Justin Taylor photo

Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

Justin Taylor's Books