Parents who are brokenhearted over their teen or adult children because of their agonizing struggles and destructive choices shed many tears. Reasons vary: addiction, mental illness, self harm, incarceration, estrangement, gender identity to name a few. Rivers of tears haved flowed fron our eyes. The following article by Dr. Betsy Barber at Biola University gave me a great deal of comfort. I hope it will for you too.
“We enter the world crying. We take a breath, and we wail. We mourn our arrival into the world of air. And even though we are weeping, when those who love us hear this sound, they rejoice.
But when we leave the land of breath, those who love us cry. They weep at our departure, at our airlessness. Yet we ourselves no longer weep as we go, for in Christ, we have entered the eternal world where all tears are wiped away. We have entered into joy.
But crying is a human activity and mourning is a human capacity. AS WE LIVE, WE CRY
Even though our tears are often culturally regulated—when/where/over whom we cry is something our societies teach us—we all weep over our loved ones’ deaths. And as we live, we cry, we cry, we cry.
Jesus wept. The dual nature of our Lord Jesus Christ is so clearly shown here: He is fully human; He is fully God. Humanly, He is distressed by His friends’ grief and He cries over His friend’s death, and then, divinely…He raises Lazarus from the dead! I treasure John’s detail that tells us how Jesus was visibly moved by Mary and Martha’s grief.
GOD CARES WHEN WE CRY
God cares when we cry: You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8 ESV). The photo today shows a river of bottles flowing through a cathedral and then stored carefully on the wall—God does not ignore your tears, He saves them.
We save things that are precious to us, things that matter to those we love. God saves your tears. You matter to God; He is for you (Psalm 56:9!).
Jesus’ tears matter to me. I am so moved that He cried over His friend’s death. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, took time to grieve, to mourn. Crying was a worthwhile use of His time on earth! That blows me away. Surely, He knew that He would raise Lazarus, that He Himself would be raised, yet He joined Mary and Martha and their friends in weeping. Mourning is godly behavior. It is human behavior. Jesus didn’t just share with them in their mourning, He joined them.
And He joins us. His essence is human essence, and He participates in our grief. We are not alone as we cry.
And I am also encouraged by the fact that busy Martha got it right this time in her exchange with Jesus. Even in her deep grief, Martha is a woman of faith: she believes that her friend is God, the Messiah, and she tells Him so. And it is to Martha that He says these blessed words …I myself am the resurrection and the life, the man who believes in me will live even though he dies. Yet it is after this conversation that Jesus weeps over Lazarus’ death—precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints, Psalm 116 assures us (ESV).
The watching crowd, who had come to support the sisters, turned to criticizing Jesus. While they grudgingly granted Him the power to heal, they couldn’t lift up their heads high enough to imagine resurrection. They did not have Martha’s faith.
WHAT CAN’T I LIFT UP MY HEAD TO SEE?
I’m left wondering where you and I fall on this spectrum.
What can’t I lift up my head high enough to see?
What are you unable to hope for that Jesus has promised?
What do we do with our as-yet-unanswered prayers? (The sisters had called for Jesus while Lazarus was still alive, after all! They waited past the point of hope for His answer.)
What do we do when loved ones die? Be like Jesus: weep.
So here, in this vale of tears, we cry. Our tears overtake us. But our tears are temporary, they belong to this Earth, for joy comes in the morning.
Tears here, joy there.”
Tears here, joy there.
[What does the Bible say about “there”, our future as believers in Jesus?]
He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces (Isaiah 25:8 ESV).
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4 ESV).
“Be so near us, Lord Jesus, as we grieve, and open the eyes of our hearts so we discern Your presence and Your care. Help us to not sin as we suffer. May we know You better, even as we weep. We look forward to the day when all tears are wiped away, when we see You face-to-face, and when we understand how dear we are to You. We do love You, Lord. Amen.”
***Written by Dr. Betsy Barber – Associate Director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation and Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation and Psychology, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University