Other resort guests walking past our cabin here at Afterglow Lake have heard a good deal of crying coming through our screens. Most of it has been from little children, but that’s because adult crying isn’t usually done in the same all-out, open-mouthed way.
There’s a fascinating verse in Psalms that speaks of God collecting our tears in a bottle. During the 42 days when Nate had cancer, quite a few of the letters and cards we received quoted this passage.
I’m a visual person who appreciates the thousands of word pictures God tucked into the Bible. A bottle full of tears is a potent image of several things: God’s nearness to anyone who’s upset to the point of tears, and his mysterious ability that can somehow collect literal tears.
I’ve thought about this bottle in reference to all our family crying as we’ve grieved for Nate during these last ten months, wondering if this verse could possibly be literal. Many would say, “Nonsense.” Of course God can do anything he wants, because he knows no bounds. Even the tears that slide down our cheeks and are whisked away by a tissue or an available sleeve could easily reappear in God’s bottle if that was his intent.
If it is a literal statement, what might that bottle look like? Because the scriptural word for it is singular, it would have to be one giant bottle! What could God possibly want with those tears? They’re salty, as all of us can testify, having caught them with our tongues as they’ve run past our mouths. They are also clear.
According to Revelation (22:1), heaven will have a “river of life” running from the throne of God, “as clear as crystal.” Is it possible God plans to use our tears to create this supernatural river? Could it be a “salt water river?”
Just when we become completely speechless over such a possibility, we get another inexplicable fact from the same verse. It says God records each tear in a book. Such detailed record-keeping is imponderable, but we’ve always known the Lord was good with detail. He keeps track of all our sorrows (same verse) and cares deeply about our suffering.
Today several of us spent eight hours with grandbabies, much of it trying to soothe tearful crying. Mid-afternoon I grabbed 30 minutes alone to sit among the tall pines next to Afterglow’s small beach. I brought my Bible, wanting to listen to God through its pages, and part of what he asked me to think about was the bottled-tears verse.
Recently a widow friend said, “No one likes a weeping widow.”
I understand her point. As we get close to the one year anniversary of Nate’s death, people expect grieving to conclude. Today God was saying, “Don’t worry. I don’t see your tears that way but will continue to take them from you and ‘own them’ myself.” I appreciated this tender word from my loving God, especially this week as I’m missing Nate at Afterglow Lake.
Does God collect and record the tears of even a tantruming two year old or an overtired baby? I believe he does.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8)