“Jesus began to cry.” (John 10:35, CEB)
I believe that one of the tragedies of our contemporary Western society is that far too many people cry alone. Their tears go unnoticed by others. They cry in secret. The fact that people tend to apologize for their tears in public testifies that we are uncomfortable with weeping. Maybe it’s awkward because we can’t explain the science of crying – it’s just so darned subjective and based in emotions and feelings. Maybe it’s ignored and denigrated because crying is viewed as some sign of weakness. After all, real men don’t cry; and, women who cry are just irrational (so says much of the culture). But I think there is a more sinister reason for such a paucity of tears in our society: We are more and more lacking the ability to empathize with others.
We see natural disasters destroy people’s lives, and we don’t cry. We see terrible human carnage in mass shootings, and we don’t cry. We see statistics on the staggering numbers of sexual abuse and assault, and we don’t cry. We see war across the planet with both soldiers and innocents killed, and we don’t cry. Instead, we use these very real human calamities and catastrophes to advance our own political agenda. We opine and drone on about how things should be, all the while adding to the carnage with unfeeling words and calloused hearts.
I submit to you that a significant reason a person like Jesus was not racially bigoted, constantly grumpy, blindingly selfish, and aloof toward the needs of others is that he had the ability to cry on behalf of others. Perhaps we have a crisis of virtue, bravery, truth, and concern for the common good today because we are not in touch with the need to cry on behalf of others. Jesus said, “Blessed are those mourn” (Matthew 5:4) because he knew the power of tears. Crying not only cleanses our own souls but also the griefs of others. It connects us with people’s pain, and does not let us remain detached to the brokenness of the world. God’s stamp of approval is on those who are able to cry, to weep, to mourn for others. Godliness is not found among the opinionated arm-chair politician. Instead, heartfelt weeping and wailing over the hurts of humanity is next to godliness.
Prayer, then, becomes not a means of presenting my wish list to God but the vehicle whereby I mourn the sins of the nation; intercede for my enemies; offer petitions for those who mistreat and persecute me; and, flat-out cry for the many people who are now experiencing the pain of living in a broken and fallen world (Matthew 5:44). A lack of civility and gracious discourse betrays a terribly sad lack of prayer for others. One of the greatest gifts we can give to other people, whether we like them or not, is to cry for them, especially if they cannot cry for themselves.
We are told in Holy Scripture that the Spirit himself intercedes in prayer for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26-27). If the Blessed Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit cry over the world and its inhabitants, then we have all the theological reason necessary to be about the business of weeping. It is tears, and not so much words or social action that will cleanse, purge, and wash away the ills and evils of our current moral dilemmas. One of the beautiful things about this is that without exception every single person has the biological equipment and the image of God within to cry.
If we find ourselves unable to do this important activity of crying, then this is where we need to allow another person to cry on our behalf. And that takes sharing your story with another person. Is there a trusted person for whom you can share your story? Have you ever shared your story with God? Can you imagine God crying over you and groaning over the wrongs done to you by others? Are you willing to listen without judgment to another’s story? Will you allow yourself to stop biting your lower lip and let the tears flow? Will you see tears as a gift from God?