Children are experts in the crying business. They can fall and skin a knee, and the tears flow. They can fall off their tricycles or bicycles, and the tears well up in their eyes and trickle down their little cheeks. They know how to cry.
Crying, shedding tears, is a part of life. At birth, most babies come into the world crying and some even screaming and kicking because of the traumatic disturbance of being born. Doctors will tell you that babies need to cry at birth because it opens up their lungs and aids the normal breathing process.
My daughters came into this world with a noisy blast of crying. I was in that first generation of fathers to be in the delivery room. Earlier the practice was to have a father’s waiting room for the men to drink coffee and pace the floor waiting on the announcement, “It is a boy” or “It is a girl.”
I really felt uncomfortable in the delivery room for a lot of reasons. First, as a pastor of the First Baptist Church in town, everyone knew me and I was really out of my element. Second, despite the fact that I had been trained to help Pam through the birthing process by coaching her to breathe deeply and regularly, I was not much assistance because she told me so herself there and later as well. Third, in both cases, the doctor handed the baby to me and said, “Here, hold her while I finish up here.”
When my oldest daughter, Noelle, was born, we were short on nursing assistance, so the one nurse on duty said, “How about cleaning her up while I help the doctor?” “Clean her up? She is a mess” I said in a pleading way. “Yes, she is, so take this towel and go to work on her.”
Noelle was crying the whole time, and I couldn’t blame her. She had just entered the world and the first person with whom she has contact was her father who was ineptly trying to clean her up and calm her down. In retrospect, that was not the last time I spent some time trying to calm her down.
When Allison arrived, the nurse cleaned her up and handed her to me. This time was a bit different. Allison is a redhead, and she came into the world with the most combative and incessant screaming and crying that I felt helpless to deal with her. I tried to hand her back to the nice nurse who had so kindly cleaned up for the daddy and daughter moment. But the nurse said, “Oh no! You need to talk to her.” I gave it my best shot. I talked to her, and I even tried to sing to her. Only after a few minutes did Allison cease crying. She was tired of crying, and probably she was tired of me talking and singing to her.
Shedding tears is an integral part of life. As a child growing up, my dad, a product of the WW II generation, always told me, “Big boys don’t cry.” With all due respect to my beloved father, big boys do cry – and sometimes they cry and cry and cry.
Recently, while I was in the initial stages of mourning the passing of my mother, I reread Psalm 56. In that poignant passage, there is a reference to our God “placing our tears in a bottle.”
I. Your God knows and cares about your tears.
He places your tears in a bottle. Now, what does that mean? It is a quaint way of saying that your God knows your sorrows and struggles. He knows every tear that you shed. If your God knows and cares for the birds of the air and all other living creatures, He certainly knows and cares about your situation.
Some people pride themselves in having elaborate wine cellars where various exotics wines from around the world are kept. Your God has a tear bottle cellar. He has a bottle or bottles containing your tears. He knows when you have shed tears over the loss of a loved one. He knows and cares about your tearful experiences related to your wayward children. He has your tears in a bottle.
The text also describes your God as Divine Accountant. He records your tears on a scroll or a ledger. Like an accountant, He records those tears, not that He needs to be reminded of them but, rather, it is a way of helping you know that your tears are sacred.
Think of this thought? When Jesus shed tears over Jerusalem because the city’s people were unfaithful and unresponsive to the message, His tears are in a bottle and in a ledger. When Jesus was moved to tears over the loss of Lazarus, His tears are in a bottle. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus shed tears like drops of blood. Those tears are in a bottle and in a ledger.
What a word of comfort for you and me! Those tears are so sacred and precious. They have significance to us in those tough moments of life. They are also vitally important to our God, who loves us and cares for us in ways our language can begin to describe.
II. Because your God knows and cares about your tears, you don’t have to drown in them.
I have a real good friend who joined the Navy during the Vietnam War. His only problem was that he could not swim. He was very athletic, excelling in several major sports. His football talents led him to play college ball for a year until his grades tanked and the military draft seemed imminent.
During the Navy style boot camp, my friend failed the swimming test. However, the Navy needed sailors and there was a war to fight. So I can just imagine my friend in the water flopping about, trying to keep from drowning during the test. In my imagination, I can see the instructor saying, “Okay, sailor, get in and tread water until I count ten – and then you are in the Navy. Congratulations.”
The reason our God places our tears in a bottle is that He doesn’t want us to drown in them. No matter how good a swimmer you are, you can’t swim through the ocean of tears you will experience in life. Therefore, your God places them in place of sacred safekeeping. He places them in a bottle with your name on it.
III. Because God knows and cares about your tears, you know He is for you.
The Psalmist declared, “This I know: God is for me.” When the tears flow like a river down your cheeks, this you can know: God is for you! What a declaration! What a reassurance! What a comfort!
I really believe Paul had this text in mind when he said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” He was very familiar with this beautiful affirmation. When Paul was ridiculed, he must have shed some tears. His Lord placed them in a bottle. When Paul was in prison, he had to have had his tearful moments. Those tears were placed in a bottle. When Paul faced death, he was lonely but confident. Yet he must have had a Garden of Gethsemane moment, but those tears are in a bottle.
Our tears are never, ever wasted. When we shed them, God takes care of them. He wants to help us get through the experience triumphantly. That is the kind of God we have. He is not detached or remote and uncaring. He is right there with you catching the tears and placing them in a bottle.
I am thinking about a lady who has gone through her own Gethsemane experience. Her name is Marva Dawn, a noted author of Christian books. In one of her recent works, she relates the devastating sense of sorrow she felt when her marriage of seven years ended. There were times Marva could not sleep. She had trouble putting one foot in front of the other. She experienced an intense sense of depression.
As a student of the Bible, Marva read again the passage we have been considering. She imagined how her loving Heavenly Father was catching every tear and placing it in a bottle. From this quaint image, she drew comfort and strength. There came hope, help and healing to her wounded soul.
IV. Because your God knows and cares about your tears, you can trust Him and praise Him.
When you and I discover this transformational truth, we can trust God with our lives, the good and the bad. We can praise God! We can worship God with all of our heart, mind, and soul. Our tears and our fears are interrelated. When we have fears in life, we can be assured that we will have tears in life.
Trusting in God in tearful moments and praising God, despite our fears in life, leads us to a stronger faith and a healthier Christian life. This is not easy believism. Far from it, this is a realistic Christian worldview.
In this country, we have engraved on our monetary currency the words, “In God We Trust.” That simple affirmation is controversial with some these days. It has become a political football in the public arena and, legally in the courts it has become a point of divisiveness.
Most of the time when we use our paper money, we never even glance at the words which cause so much controversy. We just pull them out of a billfold and hand them to the cashier.
My point is that we take the affirmation for granted. It is just something printed on the money we use. It isn’t taken seriously. Trusting God is serious business. Trusting God with your tears is an act of faith. It is a moment of praise. You are saying, “Thank God that I can trust Him with my life, my fears, my tears – and because of that I praise Him.” Your tears are important to God. He has a bottle with your name on it.