Tears accompany me throughout my days. I often wish for a different story where tears scarcely existed and instead, laughter and joy poured through my veins. The last three years have been the toughest of my life and many days continue to offer instances of salty water running down my face.
How comfortable are you with tears? Do you find yourself resistant to tears? Can you remember the last time you cried? What happened?
Tears flow for a number of reasons.
Studies reveal three main types of tears: basal, reflex, and emotional. Basal tears always exist within the eye and aid in lubrication, nourishment and protection. Reflex tears respond to external stimulation like smoke or slicing onions. Emotional tears contain additional hormones and proteins and flow when a person experiences deep emotion.
Although similarly composed of water, proteins, minerals, hormones, antibodies and enzymes, not all tears are the same. Did you know that tears accompanying different emotions develop in distinct ways and contain dissimilar chemicals and biological makeup? These watery leakages contain their own signature, according to Rose-Lynn Fisher, who wrote the book, The Topography of Tears.
So, tears of grief differ from tears of joy; tears of fear differ from tears of sincerity; tears of sorrow differ from tears of forgiveness; tears of loss differ from tears of gain; tears of frustration differ from tears of understanding, tears of laughter differ from tears of sadness, etc. Innate to all of humankind, tears flow for a variety of reasons and contain unique elements from the body.
Could you identify the kinds of tears you’ve experienced lately? How have you met Jesus in the midst of tears, whether your own or those of someone else?
The tears companioning me lately are tears from relational breakdown, vocational loss, prayerful longing, surrender of loved ones, life uncertainties, and surprise. Thankfully, God created the body to release emotion through the gift of tears offering freedom from tensions, toxins, and even tender desire. No matter where I am (at the apartment, in the car, with a friend, or on a walk), I experience God’s presence as I weep. I sense the Spirit of the Living God with me, journeying along my side as the tears flow.
While reading Thirty Steps to Heaven by Vassilios Papavassiliou (The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life), I found myself encouraged by the perspective towards tears addressed in the volume. Papavassiliou and St. John Climacus suggest that tears are a divine gift as they come from God. They suggest that, as tears flow from submitted souls, the Lord forms greater love, joy, peace, and compassion. Tears bring about a second cleansing and purifying of the soul for both the present age and for the age to come; a type of healing.
What happens when deep emotions well within your soul? How do you bring them into the presence of God? Have you noticed healing through the gift of tears?
Tears – are you afraid of them? God welcomes them. Psalm 56:7 reminds us that God keeps a count of our tears: “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” Other translations state that God puts our tears in His wineskin, or His bottle. God keeps them all; each unique tear, whether from sadness, joy, compassion, or worry. I don’t know about you, but at times I wonder, why? Why would God want to keep track of all our tears? What do you think?
I wonder if God tracks our tears because they offer reminders of His presence through life’s hardships as well as some celebrations. In order to capture each tear, God must be near. God is indeed near to the brokenhearted as well as the celebrant. Keeping record of each tear also demonstrates the personal nature of our loving Lord. He keeps my tears, your tears, the tears of your family, the tears of the stranger in a foreign land: all tears. I marvel at the possibility that God’s tear jar holds each tear in its unique form as an expression of the emotion of the moment. God created humanity with the capacity for emotion; it seems our emotions are significant to Him. He meets us in the midst of our emotions and holds them.
Jesus wept. Tears flowed from his eyes. In the book of John, Jesus cried as he likely missed his friend Lazarus as well as joined in the pain of his dear friends, Mary and Martha (John 11). Later, Scripture reveals that Jesus wept over Jerusalem, longing to care for the broken and lost souls of those He came to save (Luke 19). The author of Hebrews even declared that: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (vs. 7). Tears accompanied Jesus.
Tears offer comfort to the soul, connection with fellow sojourners, cleansing from emotional pain, curing from bodily toxins, and communion with God.
When you notice tears, whether your own or those of someone else, consider how you respond? Do you fix, ignore, deflect, or embrace? Let’s learn from God who keeps our tears, and our Savior who wept. Allow space in your tears to receive the grace of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. As you receive God’s grace, extend His gift to others who might be experiencing a season of tears.
All in all, when the tears flow, remember this truth with the Psalmist, “This I know that God is for me” (Psalm 56:9).
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Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
Luke 19:41-42 – As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
Psalm 34:17-18 – The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Read these recommended books to fill your soul.
Margaret Feinberg. Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God. Brentwood, TN. 2012.
Teresa White. Hope and the Nearness of God: The 2022 Lent Book. Bloomsbury Continuum, New York, NY. 2022.
Sprinklings of Truth: Soak in meaningful songs. Check out these music videos to lift up your spirit.
Matt Hammitt. Tears. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J46hMyrTL7Y
Ryan Stevenson. When We Fall Apart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J46hMyrTL7Y