When did we get to the point that we cry mostly for our own pain and less often when others are hurting?
I, for one, need to grow in my ability to produce empathic tears. Oh, I’ll shed my share when my day gets stressful, or my children are hurting, the bank account runs low, someone I love is sick, or my marriage is tested. But my eyes are rather dry when I see the far more horrific challenges of others who are less connected to me.
Scripture records that Jesus cried two times: once over the brokenness of a city (Luke 19:41) and once over the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). What brought him to tears? The tears of others.
It could be argued that in both cases our Savior was feeling personal pain, but the full context of Scripture reminds us that the condition of His heart was compassion and focus on others. And in the case of Lazarus’s death, we read that when He saw Mary and the other Jews weeping, he was “deeply moved.”
I think He was crying for others, and so should we.
All across the globe, people are in pain right now. The streets of our own nation are full of people expressing their hurt. Stories of death stream past our screens daily. There’s terrible stuff going on these days. God refers to the cause of these tears as “sin” and “injustice.” The outcome of both inevitably leads to grief for someone.
We should be sad—not just for ourselves, but for others. While there is a need for us to put words and petitions together in cognitive conversation with God, I think tears and strong emotional identification with the pain of others is a form of intercession. And it’s one that’s appropriate for this broken moment in history.
Women Who Wail
In the Old Testament, God instructed His people to wail during similar times of “sin” and “injustice.” In Jeremiah 9, the prophet writes about the nation of Israel dealing with all kinds of evil, wickedness, and deceit. He records:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider, and call for the mourning women to come: send for the skillful women to come; let them make haste and raise a wailing over us, that our eyes may run down with tears and our eyelids flow with water.” (Jer. 9:17, 18)
Here’s the thing I find most ironic about this passage: the “mourning women” were professional mourners, brought out to conjure up and express the emotions of the people attending funerals. Apparently the tears of the people of God were so dried up that the “professionals” were called upon to usher in a more appropriate response to what was happening in the world.
A similar “professional” position still exists in some African cultures—I’ve witnessed one such funeral which employed a mourning woman. Her wails released the grief of those who were locked in numbness. And how! I only observed from a distance, but the sound is cemented in my mind forever. As the woman released the gutteral sound of grief into the air, it was followed by a growing din of inexpressible sadness as others slowly joined her. One by one, they cried out together with a sound that told all who could hear that all was not well. Everything was not right. And it invited even those of us who did not know the circumstances to pause from our endless busy work to consider how we should cooperate with God to set this world back on course.
Tears That Teach
We need to be fully engaged in the sadness of this moment. Not just because people are lying, fighting, killing, and dying, but because we need to grieve over the things that grieve God’s heart to demonstrate that our hearts are in alignment with His. Out of this will spring heartfelt petitions rather than empty words. Out of this will come revival.
We need to “cry out” to God. I’m begging you to do it with me this month. Not only that, I’m begging you to teach your daughter to do it.
Let me explain.
I’m not asking you to do this as a personal spiritual growth exercise, but as a part of connecting to your True Girl and teaching her to be a biblical daughter of God. He calls us to teach our daughters to weep for others, too. Jeremiah (it is not lost on me that he is called “the weeping prophet”) records that God wanted those wailing women in Israel to invite their daughters into the process of crying out to God.
Hear, O women, the word of the Lord, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth; teach to your daughters a lament, and each to her neighbor a dirge. (Jeremiah 9:2)
As I sat in the Revive Our Hearts studios to record the first podcast for our month of crying out, Nancy asked our guest this question: “what about the mom who is surrounded by children and it’s difficult for her to find the quiet space to cry out to God?”
Our guest offered a brilliant, heart-felt, Spirit-led answer and I did not feel it would have been right for me to add to it. However, another answer rose within me: “invite your children to join you! We need their unhindered, faith-fueled prayers directed at the broken, sinful condition of our world!”
That was the moment I knew I’d be writing to you and asking God to stir your heart to join me.
Let’s not be too busy, too tired, or too consumed with our own needs to get on our knees with our daughters to cry out to God—and even to weep—about what’s happening in our world right now. We have a wonderful opportunity to use this moment to mature them. Perhaps if we take this time, they’ll be more likely to live like Jesus—“deeply moved” by the horrible pain of others. Maybe they’ll be slower to cry over more superficial challenges.