Bottled tears

Church bulletin:

Psalm 56:8, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” David was a prisoner of war and his enemies taunted him. In prayer he shed many tears looking to the Lord for deliverance. Being held captive is not an experience we have probably been through, nevertheless, we can relate to David’s feeling of distress. What does it mean that God puts David’s tears in a bottle and records them in a book.

The act of catching tears in a vessel goes back to ancient Egypt and Persia. A king returning from battle would check the tear bottles of his wives to see who had missed him the most. In the first century it was customary to put tear bottles in the tombs of loved ones as a mark of respect. This practice was revived in the Victorian period using very ornate bottles which are collectable today. David is using poetic language to make the point that God is aware of his struggles. God knows his wanderings and He knows every tear. God knows why David cries and the pain is not lost on Him. The bottle in v8 is a kind of memorial. It is David’s way of describing the tenderness of God toward His people when they suffer.

Not all tears however are noble tears. Believers can cry because they don’t get their own way, they can cry to manipulate others, they can cry out of pride, self-pity, and envy. God is aware of such tears, but they do not invoke His tenderness. What kind of weeping comes before God as a memorial – tears shed in repentance and anguish over sin; tears shed out of burden for the state of the church; tears shed over unconverted loved ones; tears shed during seasons of grief; tears shed through trials of suffering.

There are times when weeping is natural and to be expected. But when was the last time we wept over our sin, or over the unconverted, or over the state of the church? Only human beings made in God’s image have the capacity to laugh and to cry as expressions of emotion. Animals have tear ducts, but they are used to lubricate and protect the eyes. People alone shed tears corresponding to joy and pain. Perhaps too many Christians have dry eyes, and their dry eyes reflect their dry souls. We must not manufacture emotion, but the believer void of emotion needs to take stock. God designed us to weep. Jesus wept. There are times when we should weep because we have within us the Spirit of Christ.

Let us remember that tears are not the end of the story. They are part of the journey, the end of which is the blessing of God. Streams of tears lead to pools of joy.

* Psalm 126:5, Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

* Matt 5:4, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

* Rev 21:4, And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

God has made a place for tears. Let us not be afraid to weep, let us be afraid if we never weep.