I’ve been thinking a lot about tears lately—in part because Pastor Bryan pointed out to me how many hits my post titled God Keeps Your Tears in a Bottle has had, in part because I’ve cried more than a few tears this year, and in part because I’ve been listening to Johnny Cash’s Cry, Cry, Cry in my car all week—and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all here.
People cry for a lot of reasons.
Earlier this year my sister died of breast cancer at only 61 years old. I cried, a lot. It’s normal and even helpful to shed tears over the death of a loved one even if we know where they are going when they die, because it allows us to express the grief we feel over not having them in our lives any more here on earth.
I remember a time I had a previous boss say some very cruel things to me in front of other people. She accused me of having done things I had not based on motives I did not have. I was very angry, hurt, and frustrated. And I cried, a lot. I didn’t cry in front of her, mind you, but afterwards I did. And it was good to express that anger to others.
Just yesterday I experienced unexpected tears.
I was reciting the prayers of the people in church, which I’ve done many times. Our church has many prayer concerns for members, family, and friends with health concerns and more. Towards the end of the prayer I began to lift up prayers for a church member’s brother-in-law who is a pastor back in New York because he is faced with conducting the funerals of two teens who had been killed in an accident last week, and with comforting the families of three other teens who are in critical condition.
I unexpectedly had tears in my eyes and my voice cracked praying for these teens and families that I don’t even know. But they were good tears because they touched those who heard my prayer and I know they touched our Lord, too.
I have cried tears of loss, anger, indignation over an injustice, frustration, compassion, and even of joy. I sometimes cry tears of regret when I hear a beautiful song about the sacrifice of Jesus, knowing it is my sin that required him to suffer.
Tears often serve a purpose, as expressed in this poem that I wrote recently:
Tears of sorrow, anger drench my soul course without end eroding pain, anguish
Where once only aching occupied my heart now is a deep empty ravine carved by a river of tears
Tears of forgiveness water my soul’s riverbed allowing flowers of love to flourish and grow
Peace arises in my heart held aloft by God’s promises the fragrance of sweet alyssum blossoms of my soul
I think the saddest tears of all, though, are the tears of major clinical depression. These tears are so sad because the one who cries them doesn’t know what purpose they serve.
I remember when I was suffering from depression sitting in a chair and just crying. When someone asked me why I was crying all I could say was, “I don’t know.” And I truly didn’t. The tears didn’t wash away pain; they only seemed to make it all the worse.
In the midst of such tears, there is One who knows their purpose.
Romans 8:26 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Through prayer God can sometimes lead us to an understanding of the purpose of the tears of depression, and ultimately to healing. Often the wounds are so deep it takes years and a great many groaning prayers to heal. But we must accept our weakness and our need for God’s Holy Spirit to intercede for us.
For me, after much prayer of my own, the blessed prayers of others, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit, God led me to an understanding of the purpose of my tears. They were tears of anger and unforgiveness; they were tears of lament that I had allowed myself to remain in bondage to the sins of another for so long.
With God’s help, the tears did lead to healing once I truly understood why I was crying.
May You Know His Peace,
Linda has a good and perceptive blog that touches hearts worldwide. Please do pay her a visit.
You really start to gather them when you get into your fifties. They are a bit sticky, once you have them, they’re hard to get rid of— (kind of like dog hair on a nice jacket.) I’m 61 now and am surprised by the memories of things gone by. I guess this is one of the job hazards of getting old.
Why do we remember the bad things– surely they weren’t all mistakes?
God’s Word gives us fresh insight into this state of mind of regretfulness. What it gives is akin to instructions to disarm a bomb— it’s ticking, and ready to explode. There are some who have been severely wounded when a regret goes off. Out of the blue–whammo!
But what really bothers me is all of the missed opportunities.
I wonder what life could have been like if I had accepted Christ at a younger age. A lot of pain would’ve been averted and perhaps I might have loved Jesus deeper than I do now. Some of us come to love Jesus late in life. There is so much time frittered away.
I regret the years spent in rebellion and disobedience. I remember the words of a 70-year-old man who had just received Christ, “Why did I wait so long for this to happen?”
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Philippians 3:13-14, NLT
Paul learned to adjust his vision. He no longer let regret define him, choosing rather forget the past and press into the future. The solution to regret is to focus on what lies ahead. Heaven is our destination–it is our calling, it’s really where we belong.
And Peter tells us that our past sin was enough. We have wasted enough time doing evil. I don’t know about you, but I had a bellyful of sin, and it’s time to lay all the foolishness and rebellion and live instead for God. Enough is enough.
3 “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”
1 Peter 4:3
There is a sorrow that leads us to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10), and since it affects me I should make full use of it— not knowing when it will leave. I have regrets like anyone else, but there is also the joy of having my sin forgiven. They both mingle and at times I rejoice, but the sadness comes and goes as well. David, that great sinner-king, understood the joy of forgiveness.
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
“Maturity comes from obedience, not necessarily from age.”
The Book of Daniel contains the acts and welfare of the Jewish people in Babylon. They are captives and so many of the stories shared here are accounts of spirituality under duress. King Nebuchadnezzar, in an attempt to unify his kingdom, proclaims himself to be a god. He commissions a 90-foot statue to be erected; he orders that, on a prearranged moment, all would fall down and worship.
There are three Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who are brought to the king with the charge of ‘failure to worship.’ They refused to bow at the statue at the signal. They were observed standing when everyone else was kneeling. Non-compliance to the king meant the death penalty, but that doesn’t deter the three.
Their faith will not allow them to sin in this way.
They are resolute. The first, second, and third commandments clearly forbid the worship of all idols. There were no other options. Perhaps they valued their souls more than they valued their lives. In some things, there can be no accommodation– no compromise. Standing before the king and threatened with death, they declare their allegiance to the living God.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
The king is enraged.
Few have ever spoken and defied him like this (and lived). He orders the furnace to be heated up like never before. Here the king is making a statement. He will not tolerate this kind of ‘rebellion’ in his kingdom. All of his governing leaders will witness what he does to ‘traitors.’ These Hebrews must be made an example.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fire. The men who escorted them are killed by the heat. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzer can’t protect his own men from death while the three Jews are not touched, not even a little.
They are joined by a fourth man and they walk around in the midst of the flames.
Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzer realizes that the God of Israel is not only a real God, but a force to be reckoned with. The men’s faith has saved them. (And his men are dead.)
The complete story is quite compelling. The king orders all that the real God be worshipped. Henceforth, no one shall ever speak against this God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are promoted in the kingdom.
The lessons for today are many,
God’s Word is to be obeyed no matter what it costs.
When confronted, we must never hedge over our beliefs.
God is present with us in our furnace, we’re never alone.
In the fire, our faith will ultimately triumph. One way or another.
We may be standing in similar times. Faith will be tested. The Word must be believed and trusted. It is ‘comprehensive protection’ for our lives. Obedience to God will lead us into difficult places, but faith will triumph.
“When you have no helpers, see your helpers in God. When you have many helpers, see God in all your helpers. When you have nothing but God, see all in God. When you have everything, see God in everything. Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord.”