I used to hate crying and tears. I thought they were a curse, a sign of weakness, a source of embarrassment. I hated crying in front of other people, because I liked to be the strong one. I was uncomfortable when other people cried because I didn't know what to do. I felt guilty if I did nothing, but saying something or putting my hand on their shoulder felt . . . awkward. But I have learned that tears are a gift.
“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,” says Revelation 21:4. Reading this verse, I always envisioned tears and sadness as a result of the fall. And in a way, they are. But they are not a sin caused by the fall. They are one of the gifts that God has given us to combat sin, pain, and hard things.
Sadness allows us to feel the pain in the world and to share the pain of someone we love. It is not a sin. Jesus felt sadness. He shared the burden of pain with those he loved. He also wept. Tears express what our hearts are feeling and cannot put into words. They are a release, a function of our bodies that God gave us so that we might express our emotion and not have to hold it in. And sometimes, tears are all we can muster. The hurt in this world leaves us speechless, as it should. While speech is a gift too, and a healing one at that, sometimes the words just won't come. Tears are the only option.
There is also power in simply sitting in silence with someone when the tears lie heavy in their chest and won't leave—when they're sad and hurting, but the tears and words just won't come– when the thoughts are raging in their heads and they just need a hand to hold, a presence, to know they're not alone.
A few months ago, I was wrestling with stress and worry, and was just feeling weary of everything. I couldn't put it into words, and I wanted to cry so badly, but the tears just wouldn't come. It's one of the worst feelings, knowing that you're going to lose it at some point but having no control over where, when, or with whom. But the Lord was so gracious to me that day. I was with a dear friend of mine, and told her that I knew I was going to break down at some point, but I didn't know when or even why I felt that way. She told me that it was okay, and that I was not alone. That everyone around me was wrestling too. Then she took my hand, and simply sat with me. In silence. For almost forty-five minutes. She was just a presence. She knew that I was struggling, but she also knew that words were not what I needed right then.
In that moment, with the sadness laying heavy on my heart, the love of Christ was so evident and beautiful to me. Because silence is a gift. Tears are a gift. Simply being able to be sad with someone is a gift. Psalm 56:8 says, "You have kept count of my wanderings, put my tears in your bottle." Jesus collects each and every one of our tears in a bottle. He cares about us that much. Sometimes I get frustrated with the English language because we don't have enough words to describe the love of Christ. But he loves us. He adores us. He holds nothing against us. He gave us sadness, tears, and silence so that we might draw nearer to him and to each other. These things are beautiful, unexpected gifts, ones that we may not realize the value of now, but someday, we will look back, and see that the Lord was working. That our pain and the sadness we felt were all part of His glorious plan. And that, my friends, is a gift.