The Ministry of Tears
“There’s no crying in baseball!” That was the famous line spoken by Tom Hanks in the movie “A League of Their Own.” That comical moment speaks more truth than we may think. We live in a culture where people are often uncomfortable with emotions. In the past we have idolized figures like John Wayne, men who were brave and heroic, but never emotional. Many of us grew up with fathers who we may have seen teary-eyed only once or twice or maybe never at all. To some in our culture crying is viewed as a sign of weakness. To others it is something that makes them uncomfortable when they are around it. They don’t know what to do or say. This fear of anything emotional is strictly cultural. In the Bible we find a God who openly loves, occasionally grieves, and who is not afraid to cry.
Tears are probably not the first thing we associate with God, even though He weeps on several occasions. The most famous account of God crying is when Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. This is a famous story in the gospel of John, but sadly the weeping of Jesus is probably more famously known as the shortest passage in the Bible, rather than a sincere moment in the life of God when He weeps over the death of a friend. Many have speculated and some have even been confused as to why Jesus weeps at this moment, since He knows Lazarus will be brought back to life. There is nothing to be confused about. Jesus is participating in the grieving process. He is showing us that it is perfectly natural to grieve at the loss of a loved one or any other crisis situation we may be facing. Tears are not to be looked down upon. They can sometimes help us get through the toughest moments in life.
Some may attribute the tears of Jesus to His humanity, but there are other places in the Bible where God, our heavenly Father, weeps. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet because on several occasions he weeps over the condition of Israel. The problem is that in several of these passages Jeremiah is speaking on God’s behalf. I have no doubt that Jeremiah wept over Israel, but so did God. The most famous of these passages is found in Jer. 8:18-9:3. The section begins in 8:17 with the phrase “says the Lord” and ends in 9:3 with the same phrase. Jeremiah is speaking, but he is speaking God’s words. This passage describes how God feels. Notice the grief of God:
“My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick…For the hurt of my people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me…O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night.”
God feels the hurt of a disobedient child. This hurt is like none other. The parent helplessly watches as their child is spinning out of control, knowing there is nothing they can do to prevent the coming disaster. Frederick Buechner describes this grief in his book “Now and Then”
To love another, as you love a child, is to become vulnerable in a whole new way. It is no longer only through what happens to yourself that the world can hurt you, but through what happens to the one you love also… When it comes to your own hurt, there are always things you can do. You can put up a brave front, for one, and hide behind that front, if you are lucky, if you persist, you can become a little brave inside yourself. You can become strong in the broken places, as Hemingway said. You can become philosophical, recognizing how much of your troubles you have brought down on your own head and resolving to do better by yourself in the future…But when it comes to the hurt of a child you love, you are all but helpless. The child makes terrible mistakes, and there is very little you can do to ease his pain, especially when you are so often a part of his pain, as the child is a part of yours. There is no way to make him strong with such strengths as you may have found through your own hurt, or wise enough through such wisdom, and even if there were, it would be the wrong way because it would be your way and not his. The child’s pain becomes your pain, and as the innocent bystander, maybe it is even a worse pain for you, and in the long run even the bravest front is not much use.
God cries when He sees us choose the wrong path. He cries when we hurt. He cries when we experience tragedy. God is our father and he feels our pain. We should not frown upon tears. We should not think any less of a person because they are willing to cry. God cries. To weep is natural. It is part of the grieving process we go through. We must always remember that whatever tragedy or crisis we experience we are not alone. God is there! When we cry we do not cry alone. God is there also! We serve an empathetic God who deeply cares about us.