A tally of tears      

While watching televised interviews with the very few aged Jewish survivors of the Holocaust still living here in Britain, I was surprised to learn that none of them had ever given way to weeping throughout their subsequent long lives. One man was challenged about this by his daughter in her strong cockney accent during a recent visit of theirs to Auschwitz. He admitted that he had only ever wept silently, deep within himself, over any disappointment in all his days since being interned there in childhood, never with his eyes or with any vocal sounds! The reason that this surprised me is because, after I had toured that museum in Poland on foot in deathly silence, I had to find a private space immediately afterwards to howl my guts out with tears gushing down my face at man’s inhumanity to man!

By the way, survival was unexpectedly bequeathed on some prisoners by their Nazi captors. One woman who still has her death camp identity number 69388 tattooed on her forearm, told of how she was asked by her captors on her arrival if she played any musical instrument. On declaring her ability to play the cello she was assigned to the safety of the camp orchestra!

God keeps a record of our tears

I turned to my Bible and, with the help of my concordance, I tracked down several references to weeping and tears. Among the many reminders, and some fresh discoveries, I read Psalm 56:8 where young David relived his harassment by the Philistines when they had captured him in their city of Gath, and how the ‘Lord . . . kept track of all . . . my weeping.’ He felt blessed that, in fact, ‘You’ve stored my many tears in your bottle – not one will be lost. For they are all recorded in your book of remembrance’ (Psalm 56, title and verses 7- 8, The Passion Translation).

  1. Darksome causes of weeping

Here are some of the scriptural reasons for weeping that I discovered.

  1. Mourning the death of a loved one

For instance, when the news that ‘in battle . . . Jonathan lies dead on the hills’ reached David, he records: ‘How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan! Oh how much I loved you! And your love for me was deep. . . .’  (2 Samuel 1:25-26, New Living Translation).

He also sobbed bitterly on learning of the death of his rebellious son Absalom. ‘The king was overcome with emotion. He . . . burst into tears . . .  and . . . cried, “Oh my son Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom. If only I had died instead of you!” . . .’ (2 Samuel 13:33 NLT).

In complete contrast, David had wept while his newborn son was fatally sick. The boy was the product of his blatant adultery with his neighbour’s wife! But his servants were baffled when he dried his tears on hearing of the child’s death. The reason? ‘I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, “Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.” But why should I fast when he is dead?. . . I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me”’ (2 Samuel 12:22 NLT).Even the fear of one’s own death could induce tears, as David said to the Lord:  ‘How can I be any good to you dead? For those who are in the graveyards sing no songs . . . I’m exhausted and worn out with my weeping. I endure weary, sleepless nights filled with moaning, soaking my pillow with tears’ (Psalm 6:5-6 TPT).

And even considering one’s own impending death could cause tearful sorrow as Job found. Despite his initial robust testimony of trust in God at his tragic loss of business, family and health, he admitted: ‘I pour out my tears to God.’ Why? ‘For soon I must so down that road from which I will never return’ (Job 16:20, 22 NLT).

  1. Prolonged exile was another cause of mourning. In Jeremiah 9:1, 17-19 NLT, the so-called ‘weeping prophet’ says: ‘If only . . . my eyes . . . were . . . a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for my people who have been slaughtered’ (verse 1). He pleads: ‘. . . call for the mourners. Send for the women who mourn at funerals. Quick! Begin your weeping! Let the tears flow from your eyes. Hear the people of Jerusalem crying in despair, “. . . We must leave our land, because our homes have been torn down.”‘ The Jewish exiles of that generation would die abroad.

Of course the Jews would give vent to tears of disappointment in Babylon. After all, their ancestors had been released following generations of slavery in Egypt and had been given Canaan by their Redeemer as ‘The Promised Land’ – which their founding fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had longed to inherit. In fact, ‘Along the banks of Babylon’s rivers we sat down as exiles mourning our captivity and wept with great love for Zion’ (see Psalm 137:1-6 TPT).

  1. Barrenness was a regular cause of prayerful tears to such wives as Sarah, .Rebekah, Rachel and Hannah until God miraculously blessed them with offspring (e.g. 1 Samuel 1: 8).
  2. Repentance can be accompanied by weeping due to regret and remorse that leads to a determination to amend one’s ways. Peter, the disciple of Jesus, was one of the most vivid examples of this; after denying any personal involvement with his Lord to a couple of servant girls at Jesus’ trial, at cockcrow and the dawning of a new day he recalled his Master’s prediction of his threefold denials, and he went away weeping (see Matthew 26:69-75).
  3. Empathy with those who are suffering can cause tears. We know well that the shortest verse in our English Bible is John 11:35, ‘Jesus wept’ (King James Version) or ‘The tears streamed down Jesus’ face’ (TPT) in sympathy with Martha and Mary now bereaved of their brother Lazarus for four grim days. And in the Garden of Gethsemane: he pleaded with God, praying with passion and with tearful agony that God would spare him from death . . .’ (see Hebrews 5:7 TPT).

All such weeping will have no place among the resurrected community of God’s people, as John was assured on the island of Patmos: ‘God himself will have his home with them . . . He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and eliminate death entirely. No one will mourn or weep any longer. The pain of wounds will no longer exist, for the old order has ceased’ (Revelation 21:3-4 TPT). In contrast, hell is characterised by endless ‘weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth’ (see Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30 KJV).

Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome to ‘weep’ in sympathy ‘with those who grieve’ (Romans 12:15 TPT).

  1. Delightful causes of weeping
  2. Tears of faith are described in Psalm 126:5-6 TPT. ‘Those who sow their tears as seed will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee.’ A footnote in TPT explains: ‘A sower weeps when he sows his precious seed while his children are hungry. This is a picture of sacrificing what little we have for the harvest to come.’ The psalmist continues his song: ‘They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow, but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness as they bring back armfuls of blessing and a harvest overflowing!’
  3. Tears of gratitude and worship.

When David [see title of Psalm 30] sensed that God had ‘healed’ him ‘from the brink of death’ (verses 2-3 TPT) he ended his song in a crescendo of high praise because:  ‘. . . he. .. . transformed all my wailing into a whirling dance of ecstatic praise’ (verse 11 TPT). ‘We may weep through the night, but at daybreak it will turn into shouts of ecstatic joy’ (verse 5; see also 11 and 12 TPT).

The supreme example of tears of gratitude is told in Luke 7:37, 38 and 44 TPT. There ‘an immoral woman of the streets . . . took an exquisite flask made from alabaster, filled it with the most expensive perfume, went right into the home of the Jewish religious leader, and knelt at the feet of Jesus in front of all the guests. Broken and weeping, she covered his feet with the tears that fell from her face. She kept crying and drying his feet with her long hair. Over and over she kissed Jesus’ feet. Then she opened her flask and anointed his feet with her costly perfume as an act of worship.’ Jesus eventually explained her expensive behaviour as an expression of her ‘extravagant love’ (verse 47 TPT).

We would each do well to ask ourselves: Do I ever really let myself go in such gratitude and worship?

 

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