Ready To Rejoice
This is how I will know you have shown unfailing love to my master – Genesis 24:14 (NLT)
A friend called the other day to tell me his grandmother died. I didn’t know the grandmother very well, but I did know she was “comfortable” in a financial way. Although I was sad for my friend, it also occurred to me that he might see a significant inheritance, and I was surprised my reaction was, “Why him? Why can’t I get something from someone?” Yes, I was disappointed in myself, but being the self-professed good Christian man that I am, I put aside my bad feelings and convinced myself they weren’t there.
But God knew better.
Two days later, I’m reading in Genesis as part of a “Read the Bible Through in a Year” program we’re doing at the church where I’m the self-professed good Christian pastor. When I got to the above verse, my reaction to my friend’s potential blessing came flooding back. God wasn’t finished with me. (As a side note: have you ever noticed some of the programs we use to enhance our spirituality, like Bible reading programs, God uses to fix our spirituality?)
What bothered me about the story was the way Abraham’s servant (probably Eliezer from Genesis 15:2) wasn’t looking for God’s blessings in his own life, but in the life of his master. Abraham sent Eliezer on a difficult mission – to find a wife for Isaac among Abraham’s family in the east. When Eliezer gets to Abraham’s homestead, he makes a convoluted prayer about camels and drinking water in order to find just the right wife for Isaac. And when it works, Eliezer rejoices that God has shown “unfailing love to my master.” At that point, the Holy Spirit slapped me in the head.
Why is it so difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice without feeling a competition for the love and attention of the Father? Why is it so hard for me to ask God to bless others without wondering (not always, but sometimes) when I’ll my piece of the blessing pie? Without malice, rancor or competitiveness, Eliezer is truly happy when God has shown favor to Abraham.
Now I’m thinking about this story and God won’t let me alone. I begin to wonder: when was I truly happy when God showed favor to a friend? Yes, I can think of a few times. But then I think, Eliezer wasn’t rejoicing when his poor neighbor got blessed, but when his rich employer got blessed. Can I do that? Can you? Sure, we can be happy if the Lord sends our poorer neighbor a hundred dollars to put towards their winter heating bill. But can we truly rejoice when God dramatically and miraculously shows unfailing love to one of the richest and already most blessed people we know? Won’t there still be a bit of jealously and envy, a bit of “what about MY blessing” thrown into the mix?
That was exactly where I found myself the other day. And what is worse, all his mental gymnastics was over a potential blessing that may not even happen. I was getting worked up over something I was imagining may happen in the future. No wonder God wouldn’t let it go. He loves me too much to let me put a wedge between Him and me over an imagined blessing in the life of a friend.
Now that I’ve written down my struggle, it all seems so silly. This writing, like the poems of David, worked like a confession and a healing. I feel better for having shared, and now I think that if my friend does receive an inheritance, I’m ready to rejoice. It took me a while, but finally I’m there.