I’ve always been impressed when actors cry on cue. Recently I read the biography of Melissa Gilbert who played the part of Laura Ingalls on the TV series “Little House on the Prairie.” When an episode called for tears, she’d separate herself, close her eyes, and withdraw into a sad memory, focusing on it until she’d brought it from her past into her present. After several minutes, real tears would come.
I wonder if there’s a difference between coaxed tears and those that come when we’re trying to hold them back. If examined under a microscope, would scientists be able to tell the difference?
My friend Barb Ingraham wrote, “When scientists studied human tears, they discovered the purpose of the tears determined their chemical composition. Tears to cleanse foreign objects were different from tears of sorrow, which were different from tears of joy.”
When I read that, I thought immediately of our God who delights in tending to details, assigning a purpose to each one. He cares about our crying, keeps track of our tears, and ministers to the reason for our weeping. And it gets even better than that. God uses the product of our grief, the tears themselves, to help us. Barb wrote, “Tears of sorrow actually have natural anti-depressants that cause a literal lift in body and spirit.” We have an awesome, helpful God!
When I was a newlywed, I awoke one night feeling sad about something (can’t recall what) and started to cry. Climbing out of bed and heading into the next room, I sat on the couch and bawled my eyes out, wishing Nate would wake up and come looking for me. I desperately needed his arms around me but wasn’t going to wake him.
I sat on the couch sobbing for 15 minutes or so when suddenly there he stood in the doorway, his eyebrows up and his mouth hanging open. “What’s wrong?” he said.
“What should I do?”
I looked up at him with my wet face and runny nose, aching to have him enfold me in his arms but wanting him to initiate it. (Such was the mindset of a newlywed.) Because he couldn’t think of anything else to do, he sat down next to me and put his arms around me, exactly what I’d longed for.
I melted into him with a tremendous sense of relief and gratitude. Before long my crying calmed to a sniffle, and we both went back to bed. The crisis had passed, because of his love.
Each of us cries because of a crisis, and it’s God’s love that can bring us through. We see it in his design of our specific tears, realizing he knows why we’re hurting and, more importantly, knows what we need. Whether it’s reassurance of his love or something more, he’ll make sure we get it. He may not take away our crisis, but he’ll be our shoulder to cry on as we move through it.
And he makes this additional promise:
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Psalm 126:5)