Healing Tears

My guts were spilled all over my friend’s lap. I had just admitted to her the full details of the horrific trial that I was still in the aftershocks of, details so deeply damaging that it had taken me a long time to admit them to myself. I hadn’t meant to say it all to her. My recent experiences with other friends had taught me to be afraid of being so open. Would she avert her eyes and change the subject? Would she try to convince me why it really wasn’t that bad? Would she deny my experience altogether or think of me as a lesser Christian because I continued to be so affected by it? Fear of further wounding made me want to withdraw from our friendship, but I just could not continue to bear this much pain on my own.

She wept.

As the tears spilled silently down her cheeks, all my carefully restrained emotions came bursting out. Up to this point I had walked around as if in a dream, carefully reporting the facts as if they had happened to someone else. I had been incapable of releasing the tidal wave of emotions that were crushing my spirit from within. My friend’s response informed my soul that it was finally safe. Her tears gave me permission to cry.

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified though it.”
John 11:3-4

Jesus comforted His friends in the same way. Mary and Martha’s world had been rocked by the sudden loss of their brother and all the stability, protection, and love that he had provided. Their minds where reeling with the shock; their hearts were broken by the truth. Lazarus was gone, permanently and finally gone. Jesus knew better, but He didn’t say so. He made room for their pain, listening tenderly to their agonized questions and engaging them in their sorrow. He did not repeat the line about God having a good plan, even though it was true. He did not interrupt their grieving process with a quick fix, even though He could.

He wept.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at this feet and said, “Lord, if you had ben here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, LORD,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
John 11:32-36

Sincere, heart-broken tears, flowing down the face of God. The Almighty, weeping. Why? Because those He loved were weeping. Because He is not the kind of friend who stands far off, afraid to be affected by our pain. Because what His friends needed right then was compassion, not answers or solutions. Jesus’ tears communicated His love in a way no words or miracles could. This time, Jesus healed the sick in heart through tears.

Jesus healed the sick in heart through tears.

Jesus cries for us for when can’t cry for ourselves. His plans for our suffering and His power to overcome it don’t preclude His tears for us in the midst of it. For some reason I have yet to understand, He values the process of our grieving too much to resolve it prematurely. When we weep with those who weep, we enter into their pain the same way God enters into ours. Our tears offer a healing balm, the tangible evidence of God’s compassionate love.

He bore our grief and carried our sorrows. Isaiah 53:4

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3 thoughts on “Healing Tears”

  1. thanks once again for expressing what I haven’t. I’m tired of people trying to put a band-aid on my trials with “God has a purpose” and “trust God” and all the talk about idols of the heart. We need more teaching and understanding on the doctrine of suffering, if there is such a thing – thanks for helping us to see that God is in there!! I’ve been working through these same issues.

    1. I think you are on to something. Of course we need to trust God’s purposes and to purge our hearts of idolatry, but these are not the answers to all of our problems. In many ways, those sorts of responses often remind me of Job’s comforters, who spoke the truth with great wisdom, but wielded the sword of truth with devastating results. Jesus modeled for us many different approaches to “counseling,” responding in different ways to people in different situations. To the rich young ruler, He counseled him to cast down the idols of his heart (wealth, prestige). To the woman healed of her shameful bleeding, He spoke words of affirmation. To the weeping sisters, He demonstrated tears of compassion. I think we do need to broaden our approach to counseling, much of which will happen as we develop a more complete theology of suffering. Perhaps that would include a better understanding of the messy process through which even the godliest of people (Jesus included) go as they suffer.

  2. rlh, I’m saddened for you that your friends have been too afraid to enter your sorrow. It hurts. Isolates. Yet, they are not in a place where they are even able to “grieve with those who grieve.” It’s like asking someone with no arms to swim across a pool. Pray for them that the Lord would gently open their eyes. You may be their teacher one day through how you minister to them in the depths of their suffering. Sometimes our pain and sorrow is to equip us to be able to identify with others in theirs, to be as Christ was to Mary and Martha. Our tears and sorrows are never wasted.

    Hebrews 2:10 just came to mind: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author their salvation through sufferings.” So often I’ve thought about that passage in light of Christ’s sufferings for atoning for my sin. He’s already perfect, though, already holy. How can He become any more so? Through his life sufferings? I have not successfully connected His sufferings to His identifying with us completely in areas such as the death of a beloved friend, in the loss of a father (conjecture), betrayal by an inner circle friend, uncertainty about housing, misunderstanding by close family members.

    rlh, may you experientially know the sweetness of the Lord’s presence all the more intensely today.

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