(12) Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer
(15) ...Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:12,15, NIV
Lord our God, we thank you for your gospel, the great, good tidings we may carry in our hearts to give us joy in this present time, even though on all sides people are in anguish and agony. We thank you that your gospel fills our hearts with compassion, enabling us to help carry what many have to suffer. Show us our need of you so that we can receive your help. If we must be the first to suffer all kinds of pain and distress, may we do so joyfully because we have been promised blessing in the midst of all the pain. May we continually honor your name, praising you for the good news of your kingdom, for the promise that everything must work together for good through Jesus Christ the Savior. Amen.
The context of the words of Romans 12:12,15, NIV
Romans 12:9–21 is a list of numerous brief, bullet-pointed commands. Taken together, they paint a picture of what the living-sacrifice Christian life should look like. The unifying theme of the list is setting ourselves aside, to effectively love and serve the Lord, each other, and even our enemies. We must serve with enthusiasm and focus, mastering our emotions to rejoice in our future and be patient in our present. We must refuse to sink to evil's level in taking revenge and instead overcome evil by doing good to those who harm us.
In Romans 12, Paul describes the worship of our God as becoming living sacrifices to our God, giving up seeking what we want from life and learning to know and serve what God wants. That begins with using our spiritual gifts to serve each other in the church. Paul's list of commands describes a lifestyle of setting ourselves aside. Our goal as Christians is to love and lift each other up. We must focus our expectation on eternity and wait with patience and prayer for our Father to provide. We must refuse to sink to evil's level, giving good to those who harm us instead of revenge.
Meaning of the words
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer"
Paul continues to describe our lives in Christ in a series of related short commands. The three commands in this verse are key to the emotional and spiritual well-being of every Christian.
The first command to Christians is to rejoice in hope. Often, we resist instruction about what we should feel: that we should change our attitudes to be joyful. The idea here, though, is more about declaring ourselves as having reason for joy. It's not a command to be happy, but to have the right perspective on our situation. We should agree with God that our hope is worth rejoicing over. What hope? Paul is referring to the hope of the redemption of our bodies and being united with our Father forever once our adoption is complete (Romans 8:23–24).
The next command is to be patient in tribulation or affliction. This becomes much easier if we are keeping the other two commands. Those who see their future worth celebrating and who pray to the Father continually will have a much easier time being patient during hardship. Paul is not downplaying the genuine pain of those experiences. Life can be unpleasant, and not all moments are happy moments. Yet Paul has pointed out that the struggles of life on earth are not worth comparing with the glory to come (Romans 8:18). So, we wait with patience (Romans 8:25). The final command of the verse also connects with Paul's thoughts in Romans chapter 8. We're commanded to be constant in prayer, or to keep praying continually. During any time of suffering, while waiting for what we're hoping in, we should pray. Prayer brings a connection with our Father through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26–27). He hears, understands, and helps in response to even our clumsiest attempts to communicate with Him.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn"
Of all people, Christians should be masters of empathy, according to Paul. He commands those who are in Christ to be submissive to each other even in our emotions. Nothing communicates sincere love and concern for another person more powerfully than recognizing and joining in their highs and lows. We show love by empathizing with their seasons of celebration and allowing ourselves to feel broken with them in their seasons of heartache.
Jesus Himself powerfully modeled this in John 11:33–35. He was deeply moved and wept with Mary and the others after Lazarus had died. Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from dead, but that did not keep Him from joining in the sadness of those experiencing the loss.
Saved believers have been shown great grace by God (Romans 3:23–24), who experienced our temptations and suffering (Hebrews 4:15–16). Just as Christians, who have been shown great mercy, ought to be merciful to others (Romans 11:30–31; Ephesians 4:32), so too should they reflect God's empathy through compassion for others.