“Therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 3:7,8).
ONE MEASURE OF MATURITY IS WHETHER WE CAN TAKE PLEASURE IN THE HAPPINESS OF OTHERS. In other words, a happiness should not have to be our own in order for it to bring us pleasure.
In the New Testament, Paul’s ability to enjoy the blessings of others is one of the most admirable aspects of his character. After embarking on his work as an apostle, he very often found himself in difficult circumstances. To say the least, it was a hard life that Paul led. If he never had any happiness except the kind that comes from pleasant personal conditions, he would have had little happiness. But Paul was thrilled when any good thing came his brethren’s way. What got him through his own travail was knowing that his fellow Christians had what they needed and were thriving spiritually. “For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.”
What if we started thinking like that? Consider two examples.
(1) When the other person enjoys something that we don’t have. Steve Forbert, a songwriter from my hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, has a great line in one of his songs: “Driving a Jaguar is impressive, but you can’t watch it go by.” The owner of a Jaguar gets one kind of happiness, but he misses the other kind, the kind that “watches it go by,” happy for what somebody else has.
(2) When the other person’s happiness has come at our expense. The principle of sacrifice teaches us to spend and be spent that others might have what they need. Love is eager to do without in order to open doors of happiness for someone else. At such times of sacrifice, where should we put the emphasis: on the price that has been paid or the happiness of the other that has been procured?
The fact is, there is plenty to rejoice about in the world. Some of it may have to do with our own blessings, but much of it has to do with the good things that have come to others. As someone has said, “It is a poor heart that never rejoices.” We will never learn contentment until we climb out of our own circumstances and see that many good things are happening around us. Regardless of how much of the “pie” is our own, the pie is really quite good!
“Glad of other men’s good, content with my harm” (William Shakespeare).