God Hears: Tears

God Hears: Tears

God Hears: Tears. 

“Those who sow their tears as seeds will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee. 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 armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing!”(Psalm 126:5-6, TPT).

Life blends together the bitter and the sweet. “Joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine,” said William Blake. And tears are a part of each. Tears will come in heartfelt repentance, as James said in 4:9, “Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” But then with the miracle of forgiveness, tears may come soon after in the midst of rejoicing in God’s mercy. We weep with sorrow, we weep with joy. We grieve in tears, and we laugh with tears. Tears are one of the most expansive and articulate expressions provided to mankind. One minute Jesus tells His followers, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” And the next minute He tells them, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:21,25). Joy and woe are woven fine…

Weeping has a distinctive voice, with a language all its own. Tears are an articulate expression of sorrow and grief, of repentance and guilt, of pain and suffering, of fear and distress, of joy and wonder. And fortunately, “Tears are a language that God understands.” (Robert Smith). When Ishmael (which means “God hears”) and Hagar began their seemingly hopeless trek in the wilderness, God reached down in mercy because He heard the boy crying (Genesis 16:11). When David reveals that he soaked his pillow with tears and drenched his bed with weeping (Ps. 6:6), he doesn’t need to talk about the depth of his distress. When Job states that his face is flushed and swollen with weeping and his eyelids look like the shadow of death, his grief and pain are obvious to all (Job 16:16). On the day that Yahweh asked the people of Israel to shave their hair off in humiliation, to wear sackcloth and to mourn with many tears, it is clear to everyone that Israel needs to repent of their sinfulness. When the priests were ordered by Yahweh to stand between the Temple courtyard and the altar and do nothing but weep, they graphically expressed their fear of God’s judgment, for all to see (Joel 2:17). When Jeremiah personally witnessed the desolated Jerusalem, he described the city in poetic terms, Jerusalem sobbing through the night with tears streaming down her cheeks. He laments the fall of God’s city, and asks Jerusalem to cry aloud before the Lord, to let her tears flow like a river, giving no relief to her eyes. Could Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, have expressed his sorrow over Jerusalem’s demise any better? (Lam. 1:2, 2:18).

When Hannah was in deep anguish over her barrenness, she cried bitterly to the Lord at the Tabernacle. She was pouring her heart out to Yahweh, and she didn’t need words. The priest Eli watched her as she kneeled in grief, and he saw her lips moving without hearing a word. Hannah was offering “liquid prayers” (James Larson), and the Lord understood. He answered her with the miracle boy Samuel, who was Israel’s last judge and first prophet. During the destruction of Jerusalem much later, Yahweh called for the designated Weeping Women to come to the city and mourn, and to teach their children a lament, and teach their neighbors a dirge. Bring in the professionals, the Lord says, so the Weeping Women can lead the city in crying as at a funeral. Cry in despair and let the tears flow from your eyes! Teach the women how to wail because the city is absolutely ruined and desolate (Jer, 9:17-20). God knows there is no better way to express these things than with tears.

Jesus was the man of sorrows, and He proved it at least twice according to the Gospels. The first time, he wept over Jerusalem, a deep lament over how the people there were not responding to their loving God. (Luke 19:41).  The second time occurred before he raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus wept in grief (John 11:35). He wept in solidarity with Mary and Martha and all their friends. He wept in anger and indignation at sin’s consequences, the very existence of death itself. Jesus wept and thus demonstrated that it’s okay to use tears to communicate. It’s okay to talk with tears. Jesus thus joined Himself with all those who would weep, with all those who would use tears to express their anguish.

God is in the business of turning our distress into joy, our grief into laughter. According to Isaiah, the Spirit of the Lord God is upon Jesus to “comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” (Is. 61:3). The tears of sorrow and brokenness are temporary, even for those who are trapped in daily distress. For God yearns to redeem our brokenness eventually for good, to the point of wiping away every tear from our eyes in the next life in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 7:17). For at that time, “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from every face.” (Is. 25:8).