Q & A: Week Four – The Gift of Tears



This week marks the halfway point in my original layout for this series. I designed Q & A around a set of topics I’ve been noticing as I read around the Christian blog world; six basic concerns that surface repeatedly and that often feel more than a little bit unsafe and scary to many people. When I wrote the introductory post for Q & A, I solicited additional questions from you. Two of you wrote back with a whole series of questions that crystallized around two main areas, which brought my total topic list to these eight:

1. Why is there so much talk about obedience?                      (January 17)
2. What’s with this ‘more of Jesus, less of me’ stuff?              (January 24)
3. What’s with all this talk about ‘sin?’                                (January 31)
4. Is there room for my tears here?                                       (February 7)
5. What do we do with our suffering?                                  (February 14)
6. How do I make all the pieces fit?                                       (February 21)
7. Why do bad things happen to good people?                       (February 28)
8. What do I do with all the hard/weird stuff in the Bible?   (March 7)

As you can see, these questions are broad, and fully half of them deal in one way or another with the huge topic of suffering. That is intentional. I don’t want to waste time, space or effort by delving into too much detail on any one topic, yet the facets of suffering are many and require careful parsing out. As we work our way through this list, you’ll notice that my reflections will always be general in nature, not specific. I don’t want to open a can of worms with any of these, but I do want to foster a safe space for discussion and conversation, rather than debate. Disagreement is welcome, as long as it’s kind and open. We don’t have to agree about all that much, actually, to be connected through the goodness of God made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. I am ordained in a small, evangelical denomination that I love. (You can meet us here.) We hold only six affirmations:

We affirm the centrality of the word of God.
We affirm the necessity of the new birth.
We affirm a commitment to the whole mission of the church.
We affirm the church as a fellowship of believers.
We affirm a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit.
We affirm the reality of freedom in Christ.

And it is that last one that I cling to whenever I find myself in disagreement with another Christian on any topic that isn’t directly connected to those first five affirmations. There is room to ‘agree to disagree,’ and for the last 35 years, I have been privileged to be a part of a church family that lives that truth.

This time table for our conversations, our ‘delving into the mystery,’  overlaps by two days with the beginning of Lent this year. I am hoping to do another daily devotional series during Lent; the last time I tackled that was 2012. So, after Easter, if there are further questions that you would like to work through, please let me know and we’ll have at it during the weeks of Eastertide. I am also open to continuing the Q & A format as an occasional series, so let me know if there is ever a topic you’d like for us to address together after we’ve finished this series. Thanks so much to everyone for your wonderful contributions to this endeavor.

As you can see from the schedule, the question for next week is:
What do we do with our suffering?


My reflections for this week do not fit the surfing theme! Instead, I am focussing on three treasures of mine, things I have always kept nearby on my pastoral and/or personal desk, things that teach me some important truths every time I look at them.


Treasure Number One: One weekend in early April, nearly thirty-five years ago, we had a brief respite after a huge rainstorm that lasted almost a week. So we piled our three kids in the car and drove an hour west from our home in Altadena, towards the ocean. All of us walked out onto the beach and immediately noticed that there were thousands of tiny shells scattered all over the hard, damp sand left behind by the ebbing tide. We don’t get a lot of shells in southern California. Sometimes; after a big storm, we might find a few here and there. But this was just stunning to see — and delightful. We all began to gather as many as we could in the hour we’d set aside for beach-walking.

My middle daughter, who has always had great observational skills, was the champ that day, bringing back several handfuls of these beautiful, delicate things, almost all of them scallop shells. We rinsed and dried them and I kept some of them separate from the several baskets full of shells that have always adorned our homes over the years.

These were special to me. They were small, very small. And they were perfect. Something about them spoke to a deep place in me. Ever since then, I have had this clam shell full of them sitting on my desk(s), either at home or in my office. 

DSC00944Treasure Number Two: Within the first two weeks of moving to Santa Barbara to begin my very first (and only) paid position on a pastoral staff, I was browsing among some of the quaint shops on State Street in my new hometown. I quickly located a place that remains on my top 10 list to this day, a tiny, crowded shop that features jewelry, brightly colored linens, wonderful seasonal decor, and collections of tiny things. Do you see that basket? It’s about an inch and half square. And can you see what’s in it? Five tiny loaves of bread and two small fish. Does that sound familiar to you?


Treasure Number Three: The last piece of my favorite trio is this small carving of the weeping Jesus of Lithuania, a gift from a friend who used to be my boss. This is what Wikipedia (yes, I know!!) has to say about this figure:

Wooden carvings of Rūpintojėlis, “The Jesus who cares for us,” are often seen at crossroads and in cemeteries. He always rests his head on his right arm, his left hand rests on his knee, a crown of thorns on his head shows drops of blood, and his face is full of solicitude and sorrow.

The pose may represent Jesus’ anticipation of his crucifixion, after his scourging and crowning with thorns. It is also said to depict Jesus after his resurrection and before his ascension. One legend has it that Jesus traveled throughout the world wearing his crown of thorns; during his journeys, he sometimes sat on stones near the road and wept.
(italics mine)

At first glance, it might seem to you that this last piece of the three is the one that relates most readily to the question of the week. And, in one way, that is indeed true. This is a small copy of a figure that appears all over the country of Lithuania, a figure that encapsulates the suffering endured during communism’s rule, that reminded faithful Catholic believers that Jesus had not forgotten them in the midst of their suffering. His tears made their own more bearable somehow.

In truth, however, it is also the shells, and those tiny reminders of the miracle on the hillside, in combination with the weeping Jesus figure — all of these together — that help me to remember and believe that my own tears are seen by God. Not only are they seen, they are treasured, collected in God’s bottle and remembered. I believe that my tears, and your tears, are gifts from God and to God.

And also? Your tears and my tears are gifts to the larger body of Christ. 

Tears are small things, you see. Tiny, actually. Just droplets of water that flow from our eyes when we’re feeling deep emotions or when we’re enduring physical pain. Did you know that the tears that come when you are peeling onions or blinking at a fierce wind are not a chemical match for the tears you shed in either pain or joy? ‘Real’ tears carry toxins away from the body, they are a cleansing agent, a release. And part of God’s design.

I also believe that they are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s good work within us. I believe that tears can be a charism, not unlike tongues or prophecy, wisdom or miracles. No, they’re not listed anywhere in scripture. But I believe it nonetheless. For me they are the gift that came when I asked for the gift of tongues, the gift of a special prayer language. I have not received the language, but the tears spring forth, unbidden, many times when I pray, when I counsel others, when I read the Word. And over and over again, I have learned that they are gift.

They are also often sign, providing a ‘pay attention to this’ inkling that God is up to something in my heart or the heart of another. Yes, they are tiny. But they are perfect — just like the shells. And they represent what God’s Spirit can do in and through us when we relinquish what we have, when we let go of our tendency toward too-tight control over our emotions and our thought life. A lesson that I remember whenever I look at the loaves and the fishes.

God, you see, can do miracles with very small things. And sometimes, those very small things are our tears.

So, why then, I wonder, do so many Christians shy away from them? Why is the predominant mood on Sunday morning too often one of incessant good cheer, hail-fellow-well-met, I’m-fine-thank-you-I’m-just-fine? In truth, the Sunday morning good cheer wouldn’t bother me so much if I were confident that the tears that I KNOW most people are carrying in their bodies and their spirits were given permission to flow somewhere in the midst of the community, maybe on another day of the week! 

What worries me is that too many Christians simply do not feel safe admitting that they carry those tears, believing instead that they have managed to flunk the primary test of authentic discipleship. Where is the JOY? they wonder. Where is the gratitude? I have Jesus, why am I not ‘fine?’

What I want to say — what my beautiful shells and my small reminder of miracles and the figure of our crying Jesus remind me — is that life is not always grand. And that is to be expected.  Injustice abounds. Wars rage. Children die. Health gives way. Minds deteriorate. Relationships break apart. Jobs are lost. Bad habits persist. Doubt looms large. Everything is not just hunky-dory all the time, you know? We are so.not.fine.

And. . . there is this, oh-so-important piece of our story:

Jesus wept.

Hang onto that truth. With all that is in you, hang onto it. Our holy book is laced with the language of lament, fists raised to the heavens, tears streaming down the cheeks. Because tears are a part of what it means to live as human creatures in a broken but beautiful world. Tears are a primary means of release, of communication, of grief, pain, loss and even of joy and gratitude. It all melds together, you see. Mourning and dancing ‘kiss each other,’ and all of it is part of what it means to live a full, real, human life. 

This is a huge topic, so many layers to be unpacked and wrestled through. But for this week, the most important answer to our weekly question is YES, there is room for your tears here. In fact, they are welcome here. Because if you let me see your tears, then I know you are giving me a gift; you are giving me the truth. You are letting me in, so that I can weep with you, and then together, we can weep with God.

When we offer our tears to one another and to the living, loving God of the universe, we are allowing ourselves to be truth-tellers and image-bearers more powerfully than at almost any other time in our lives for precisely this reason: we know a God who weeps with us. And his name is Jesus.

Thanks be to God.

 Next week’s question: What do we do with our suffering?   

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  1. I once read of an image that God collects all our tears in jars in heaven…with our name on them. I don’t believe that they are wasted. Thank you Diana, for posing these questions and such thoughtful discussions.

  2. Diana, there is such richness here ~ and yes, I read evey word. With the depth, compassion and wonderful insight you convey, how could I skip anything? I love the mention of your small treasures with great meaning behind them all. Seeing them brings the reality closer to home. How to unpack this word? I don’t think I can today. I just want to sit and savour the soothing news that tears are welcome here, breathe deep of acceptance, rest in grace. See tears as a gift we not only extend to one another as healing balm but also to God. Know none of them are wasted. All is gift. Every little trickle counts. Thank you ~ I’m truly loving the community we have here! 🙂

    • I agree. He doesn’t let a single tear go to waste.
      And the day is coming when He will dry each one.
      Now that’s a promise to hold on to.

    • Thank you, Joy. This is a topic close to my heart, as you can probably tell, and I found this essay very hard to write. I may continue to fiddle with it now and again to make sure it says what I mean. Unpack this question in your own space if and when you have the time and energy, Joy. You can link up through Monday if you want to, or you can keep adding ideas into the comment section.

      • Diana, I had my post all ready to go, as you discovered. What I didn’t have was answers/responses to your words here. It still grips me afresh as I re-read it. Next week will be really hard for me to link up with. Suffering? Sometimes I feel I could write a book about it, but not until I’ve come through the other side perhaps. It’s a dry wilderness valley I’ve inhabited for more years than I care to remember. It gets taken to the cross and oiled regularly with grace in the good times. Or it enfolds me like a suffocating blanket at others. We’ll see what next week brings!

        • I look forward to it, Joy. I believe that you can bring insights the rest of us can’t even touch. I wish that were not true – because I am so sorry for the years of pain – but I know that it IS true. So whatever God puts on your heart to say will be warmly and gratefully received.

  3. I love this post. Once, not long after my miscarriage, I was told (taught, actually) that–if we’re not joyful–we make God the Father look bad. I rejected that idea in my spirit immediately, but I still feel a little angry when I think about it. We can be so careless w/ one another.

    I really like your list of affirmations. So much room to breathe, there.

    • I’m sorry so much false teaching abounds
      God knows your heart
      and your hurts
      and cherishes you deeply

    • Brandee – that is such a line of crap I can’t call it anything else. And I’m so sorry someone said that to you. In my book, it’s an absolute lie. Secondarily – and if I ever find a way to work this into a ‘living the questions’ post, I will – joy and tears of sorrow are not mutually exclusive. Joy is a deep emotion, a steady one and has little to do with our sorrows that rise from day to day. Joyful people can and do grieve. I think Jesus was a profoundly joy-filled person – and we’re told in black and white that he wept when his friend died. Give me a stinkin’ break. And I love that list of affirmations. Ours is the little denomination that could – one of the few that continues to grow — in numbers, in ethnic diversity, in numbers of both women and men ordained to ministry. And for a small group, we do a heckuva lot of great things. Don’t get me started!!

  4. “Mourning and dancing ‘kiss each other,’ and all of it is part of what it means to live a full, real, human life. ” Yes. Yes, this.

    your words create an echo in my spirit
    tears as a gift
    from you, from me
    to each other
    to our Lord
    for Him to cherish
    collect like your shell of shells
    priceless, fragile
    and yet in each our strength glimmers

    • “collect like your shell of shells” — love that line, Karin, and may well borrow it! Thanks for you usual wonderful insights-in-few-but-lovely-words.

  5. Diana, Thank you. this was a perfect invitation. I have 3 stories
    1) My wife is Jewish. She is a beautiful, honest, person that I love dearly. When she first came to church with me, she always cried durring the hymns. She didn’t know why, I didn’t know why, but we both knew it was appropriate and beautiful.
    2) I ran into conflict with an interim minister. She asked me to resign from the Council and I gave up my position as head of the Adult Ed. Cte. It was hard for me, sitting in church with others knowing the minister had labled me as disruptive. When the new minister came, after he knew me a bit, one Sunday, after choir practice and before church, he asked me to co-celebrate communion with him. I cried from the time he asked me all the way through serving communion.
    3) My cancer is well advanced in my bones, but I have made the commitment to sing in the choir the whole sesaon. I am pretty much the bass section. 2 weeks ago the anthem was “Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world.” The verses always start out the with basses belting out “I want to meet my Jesus,” or some variant on that theme. It was tough going for me. I did it, then went back to my seat and put my head down and started bawling while someone in the congregation stood up and thanked the choir for their spirited anthem. It was all good. These tears are gifts from God.

    • those sound exactly like Holy Spirit tears

    • YES, what Karin said, Newell. These are the tears I’m talking about here — Holy Spirit tears. Thanks for sharing these three tender stories, my friend. Music brings tears to the surface more quickly than just about anything. And serving communion – especially by intinction?? I cannot do it without tears. And they are welcome when they come. I am so glad you’re still singing! And I know they are glad and grateful, too. Praying for you — for freedom from pain and joy in the music.

  6. Thank you, friend.

  7. I am grateful for this important post. I’ve always believed tears to be healing and freeing. Your thoughts on the matter are prompting me to go deeper – thanks!

    Yes, music (especially Worship) often brings my tears to the surface and along with them a sweet relief. And I rarely observe a water baptism without crying!

    Do you remember the line in “Steel Magnolias”? “My favorite emotion is laughter through tears” I’ve always loved that line.

    Thanks for the time and thought put into this post.

    • laughter through tears
      yes, this!

    • Yes! I love that line from Steel Magnolias – and I agree with it, too. Those moments are often deeply holy moments, aren’t they? I remember when I first began to work as a pastor, at my home church, without pay. I was slowly moving through the hoops for ordination and had an office high above the sanctuary, in the bell tower of our old mission-style building. I was listening to a CD that was new to me at the time, a collection of sacred music sung by the Robert Shaw Chorale, one of the finest choirs in the history of American music. They sang the “Sanctus” from a mass written by a French composer named Durufle and I wept — even as I experienced one of the most deeply joyful and holy moments of my entire life. I listened to that thing over and over – and it always brought reminders of that first hearing. I’ve since heard that song sung by other choirs and it didn’t move me nearly so much. Here is a link – it’s a Youtube link, but it’s sound only. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgMx1Ne4eXM Be warned – it starts and ends very quietly and builds to a HUGE crescendo that is stunning. This is the translation of the text: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts; heaven and earth are full of thy glory; hosanna in the highest!”

  8. Such beauty. And this post leads me to grieve–and twenty minutes ago I didn’t know (couldn’t see? wouldn’t admit?) that I need to. Can I grieve my way back to owning tears? For so, so long, I had no safe place–and it seems I’ve forgotten how.

    You’ve given me a tremendous gift, dear sister. Thank you. Bless you.

  9. Diana, you said, “I believe that my tears, and your tears, are gifts from God and to God.
    And also? Your tears and my tears are gifts to the larger body of Christ.” Thank you for this perspective. I want to watch for ways this truth is manifested. Though I have experienced the cleansing nature of tears, a part of me hangs back skeptically from embracing them. Somewhere I picked up the idea that they are often manipulative or embarrassing, and I cringe now remembering ways I have dismissed the tears of others.

    Your topic and writing here today brings to mind scenes from my dad’s battle with cancer. I remember watching him tear up only twice in my life, and once was when he said he wished he could see his kids finish growing into their adult lives. Though he was a godly man who I’m sure looked forward to seeing Christ, it meant (and means) a lot to know he wanted to be with us, and cared about what would happen. As an eighteen year old, my approach during his illness was mostly denial masquerading as thankfulness. I told myself I just wanted to enjoy having my dad while he was still there. But I cried with him once, sitting by his bed as he was in a coma. A family member tried to suggest I talk about good memories with him instead, but somehow that one moment of truth together was very, very important.

    I don’t know if I have a blog post in me to link this week. It seems I have written one in the comments, instead! At any rate, thank you so much for your words and welcome.

    • Yes, it is certainly true that some tears can be manipulative. But let me just gently say that if you’re at all worried about that effect, the chances are NIL that you would ever actually do that! It’s a good practice never to dismiss anyone’s tears out of hand. Yes, sometimes wisdom and discernment are required to determine if the tears are genuine. But you know what? I would rather err on the side of grace and acceptance than on the side of skepticism and suspicion. And I think you would, too, Elena. And this phrase – “denial masquerading as thankfulness?” YES – we do this so easily. You show such rich insight for one so young. And I’m so glad you wept with your father in his last minutes. I wept a little with my dad the last time I saw him, and I made the sign of the cross on his forehead and offered the blessing of Aaron. Those times are holy ground.

      If you want to reflect further and then write about it on your blog, please do so. But if you want to just leave these lovely words as your link this week, that’s just fine by me.

      • “be thankful – feel better.” that was the message I received. I heard it when my brother died….be grateful you had him in your life. Well, I was, but it hurt like crazy – and I had the feeling that what they wanted was for me to feeel better.

        so I have had my issue with gratitude lists. If i could have figured out how to stay on facebook and filter out all gratitude lists in November, I would have. Then somehow I latched on the word “grace” and I could look for the grace in each day.

        I realized that while some are saying “be grateful, feel better” I could be grateful and still be sad, upset or whatever the occasion was calling for. I had to stop assuming that everyone who was grateful was also in denial. I have a feeling some are, but I dont’ have to be and not everyone is. I cannot be the judge.

        Now when I mention being grateful for something, I still verbally acknowlege the reality of the situation. ie, “yes, I am grateful my dad is pleasant, kind and cooperative, but it is still a difficult situation in many ways.” I am sure there is a post in there somewhere, sometime, but for now that is what I am saying about that:)

        • Carol, I like your approach–acknowledging both the difficulty and the grace in hard situations. Diana said, “Morning and dancing ‘kiss each other.'” You said, “I could be grateful and still be sad, upset or whatever the occasion was calling for.” The ability to see that both can exist without conflicting with each other seems like a key way to navigate life. Reminds me of something my mom read somewhere. Sorrow and joy aren’t like two streets at a crossroads, running perpendicular to each other. Instead they are like the two rails of a railroad track, and both can run through the same space of our lives.

          • Yes, I think you’re both touching on something really important. When people are weeping, we need to give them room to do that, to ‘sit with them in the ashes’ for a while and try with all our might to avoid truisms/cliches/even scripture, which can too often be misapplied during such times. If we can do that, then we can begin to encourage sweet memories, which will almost always bring laughter. . . through the tears, which several of us have already alluded to as one of life’s richest emotions. Both joy and sorrow can and do co-exist. They are not mutually exclusive. BUT we need to give people space to find their own way back to joy when the sorrow is intense. I’m so sorry that any of you have ever been hit by these bromides which can too quickly turn into barbs. There is no need for it. Maybe our small tribe here can practice giving people permission to be sad before encouraging them to give thanks. We can start a small movement. :>)

          • Yes, Elena! I have used that railroad track illustration quite often, actually, since a friend used it with me once, several years ago. That is what life is like – sorrow and joy running parallel, leading us to our ultimate destination. Thanks for you usual helpful insights.

      • Thanks, Diana! I am all for that small movement!

    • Elena,
      My youngest daughter had a child right after graduate school, while she was applying for her first job. I found out that she did so, hoping her daughter would be old enough to remember me before I died. I still tear up thinking about this decision by my daughter and her husband. (Bridget is 15 months now and we take care of her every Fiday.)

      • This is beautiful. A gift of love. Touches my heart

      • I am so glad you and your granddaughter get to know each other, Newell. I’m sure the love you are giving her now will stay with her all her life, whether in specific memories or just in the extra richness of life that being loved gives to us.

      • Oh, Newell! What a beautiful story – and a testimony to your impact on the lives of your children. I’m so grateful you and Bridget have gotten to know one another. Praying for more years together, that’s for sure.

  10. yes, tears a gift. Whenever I am moved to tears, I know for sure this is time to stop and pay attention and see what God has for me here. it’s not always readily apparent, but worth spending time with. thank you for this post….

  11. I tell you, friend, ‘hearing’ these words–yours and others–is a gift to me. Thank you for your obedience to the Holy Spirit to lead the way with these hard questions. I don’t know that I’ve read any words on this subject more succinct and powerful.

    Thank you!

  12. I absolutely love this. God has been slowly chipping away and breaking down the walls around my heart and in the last two years I cried more than my whole life. (I am 59) He weeps with us and gives us comfort.
    I love your basket and your shells.
    thank you

    • Sharon, I can strongly relate to God “slowly chipping away and breaking down the walls around my heart” too. A book that was instrumental in the process for me was, ‘The Wall Around Your Heart’ by Mary de Muth. I can highly recommend it. This breaking down in order to rebuild can feel like a strange unravelling where ground shifts beneath our feet and all seems uncertain. I am the same age as you and it is hard to still have so much to deal with at this stage of life. Know that you are not alone and I am happy to share and pray for you. Thankfully, we have the reassurance. “He weeps and gives us comfort” in everything we go through.

      • Joy, I dont’ know what age you and Sharon are, but I just turned 66 and feel much the same way. I loved the phrase you used here “the strange unravelling where ground shifts earth our feel and all seems uncertain.” I call it the “scary middle.” Sometimes I fret I won’t live along enough to benefit from all the hard work I am doing:) At the same time, I do feel I am doing this not only for me but for the precious people who are coming along behind me and I am grateful the opportunity to keep growing. Love the community here.

        • I am loving this good conversation you all are having! Loving it!

        • amen!
          I think you’ve hit on something big Carol.
          Not only for us, but for those who come after, or along side, or even those we may never know.

        • Carol, I am 59 years young and in the “scary middle” of lfe’s changes and challenges. This awareness of legacy-leaving for the next generation weighs heavy on me too. I long to get through my mess and have more of a positive message to share. And I also long to leave both a spiritual legacy and a written one in poetry/prose/memoir writing as God gives strength and ability to do so. The former is completely unknown and intangible and the latter is more evident but still entirely in God’s hands.
          As we grow in years and experience there is a need to feel our lives are counting for something. To pass on wisdom maybe. Or insights gained and lessons learned. Those “precious people coming along behind me (and you)” are the ones who need to hear our voices, even (maybe especially?) the ‘still in a mess and a work in progress’ ones. Life is a continual journey toward healing and wholeness.

          • Beautifully said, Joy. Thank you.

          • I suspect you are doing what I am….sharing your journey with those “precious people.” My parents were of the stoic generation who did not share their struggle with the loss and pain they experienced. – at least not until YEARS later and only when i specifically asked. I know there is a place and time to share….maybe after the struggle (at least some of them) , but how i wish i could have known how they managed their lives with all the loss and struggle they went through, other than “God is good and we will trust him.” – true, but somehow to me, because of their stoicism, it felt like trusting God meant I didn’t feel the depth of the pain. I just had a visit with my only living Aunt last night who was only 5 years older than me. We wept together on the phone, sharing the sharing the pain of this approach – my grandmother not talking to her about my Grandfather (her dad) dying and my parents not talking to me about how i felt about the loss of my two siblings when I was a child. these are kind people who loved us, but they did as they had learned – but at the time, it seemed to us like we were to be brave and soldier on. by the time i could have talked to my mom about this, she got sick and soon died thereafter. I am determined to be open about my journey.

            Joy, you have your blog. I have taken some of my blog entries, and some a bit too personal for blog entries for the world and have printed them into digital books for each family to have. I suspect it will mean more to them as they continue on through raising their kids, but at least they have it. I hope to take some more writing classes and would like to take a memoir writing class.

            ggod meant i could not hurt. I have learneed from others

          • What a lovely, honest response, Carol. Thank you for it.

  13. Diana Bridgman says

    It seems I stopped by here, just in time to get in on comments. Tears! Wow! Thanks for posting, Diana, my namesake! I was diagnosed with a severe degenerative, painful illness in my early teens. I’ve had 20 plus surgeries and live with pain and limitations. Once when I was on a panel with other moms, discussing how women can minister to one another, I said, “Sometimes the greatest gift is to have someone cry with me.” Indeed, aren’t we uncomfortable with tears often, quickly sniffling and stuffing them away in our sinuses. I hold firmly to the thought that tears are a gift, and a gift to be shared with those who choose to walk with us. To have another share a time of tears is beautiful, to let them flow freely, not holding back, is a source of healing. One time when I had a blood test for inflammation, my sedimentation rate was off the charts. Later in the day a dear friend and I shared a precious time of talking and crying together. For some reason I had another blood test the next day. The inflammation was within normal limits. Shared tears can be healing indeed! On the other hand, Joy hold its own in the healing arena. I have had people ask me how I could possibly be so joy-filled when I experience such great pain. The answer, of course, is Jesus. The constant Joy is another gift, not manufactured by me, but given to me by a God who sees and loves deeply. The Joy and Tears are compatible, not mutually exclusive. They come together, share the same heart. I fully believe we can be shedding tears of sadness or pain and yet walk in Joy in the same moment.

    • Oh, Diana. I am so sorry for the years of pain and struggle. And I’m so grateful that you’ve taken the opportunity to speak the truth, to say, “Sit with me in my tears. Join me. That is all, that is enough.” I love that story about the blood tests – love it. And I believe it, too. Tears are real, cleansing agents for us – and your small story is a perfect illustration of that truth. And yes, I agree with your beautiful closing lines – joy and sorrow can and do co-exist, quite peacefully and beautifully. So glad you came by!!

  14. It has taken me lots of years to become comfortable with my tears. And now both joy and sadness are more deeply felt (in a good way). Thanks for this dear post.


    • You’re welcome, Glenda. I’m glad you’re learning to let the tears happen – they do help us to experience all that we’re feeling at a deeper level, I think.

  15. Thank you for reminding us that Jesus wept. Sometimes we forget that! It is not a sign of weakness or self-pity if the tears flow now and then.

    I wish I had time to read all the comments, too. Some wise insights being shared! I did catch your response to Brandee about joy being a deep, steady emotion that has little to do with sorrows that arise from day to day. That image resonates with me as I picture joy flowing in the depths of my soul, even as waves of grief or hurt are buffeting me on the surface. Thank you, Diana!

    • Exactly – we put labels like ‘weakness’ or ‘self-pity’ around honest tears far too often. Always glad to see you here, Nancy. Thank you.

  16. We are so.not.fine. I too could take the “good Cheer” better if we also were allowed to let the cracks show. That vulnerability is something most people just don’t want to face, it is too real, I guess. I am going to be 60 soon, and it is still a struggle, as we are starting over in a new church quest, having to gloss over the tears and the pain. I love this life God has given me, but it is not easy. Very thankful for this online community and the chance to read all of your thought provoking responses, and to have you, Diana, moderating and ruminating on all these faith facets. I am not much of a writer, mainly I just read, but I really do appreciate all of this.

    • oh Judy, I hope you have a “possee.” Through one of the hardest ministry hurts we experienced, i had four friend who knew the all of the story. they saved my sanity – my life. The called themselves “Carol’s Possee.” Praying your have your possee.

    • Thank you, Judy, for sharing this very vulnerable piece of your own story. I am grateful for this community and their grace to one another == so glad you’ve joined us. (Or de-lurked, if you’ve been here all along.) And you are so right – life is both lovely and difficult. Both things are true and we need room to say so.

  17. I struggle with this. I know that our own and others pain and brokenness needs to have a place amongst us, and I don’t have a problem with others tears… it’s my own tears that are the problem! I decided as a young child, that my sister would use her tears to manipulate my parents whenever she was getting in trouble, and I vowed I would never do that. I have had times in my life when I have cried, often, over great heartaches, and there are some things that without fail will bring a lump to my throat (watching marathon runners come into the stadium at the olympics, for example), but tears are rare.
    I have recently been surprised by my tears over something that I thought had been dealt with years ago, and realised it was because God was bringing healing to an area of my heart, of which I had been completely unaware! Which makes me wonder how much more of my heart is unknown to me…

    • You know those childhood vows can seriously trip us up in adulthood. And I am not surprised by these recent tears, reminding you that you still have work to do with some of the pieces of your past. That’s how the Spirit works, I think. In layers. We can’t do all that tough work in one go, you know? So we spiral around to it, again and again, as we mature, as life experiences serve as triggers, as we understand ourselves and others better. Praying for you as you continue to uncover these powerful truths, Donna.

  18. Tears have oftimes been a precursor of joy in my experience. Tears accompanying the realisation of sinfulness have been followed by the joy of knowing myself forgiven and loved anyway.Tears of sadness can break down the shell that insists no one understands and my softened self can receive God’s love and total understanding. Tears of mourning at first just ease the physical pain but even here, eventually I have been blessed with the joyful certainty that we will meet again. The tears may flow many times before I experience the joy but with hindsight I can see this pattern.
    The worst period of my life was marked by a state of denial that refused to accept I was struggling. I used a false religion of acceptance (false because I was actually angry, resentful and playing the long suffering pious martyr) that hardened my heart and for a long time no tears fell. I was often ill and now it seems to me that these things were linked. Stress built up inside me and when not aknowledged and released as tears it manifested in other physical ways. (I do not believe that this explains most illnesses btw!) It was this experience that led me to believe that in some ways I was saved by grief. Mourning my sister’s sudden death paved the way for mourning unaccepted losses. Tears allowed more tears and joy came in the morning.

    • This is beautiful, Juliet. Thanks so much for drawing this lovely connection between the release of tears and the emergence of joy. And that denial stuff? Can be a killer, can’t it? And I agree with you, it can even manifest as physical illness at times. “Saved by grief” – beautiful truth. Thank you.

  19. To me, that Lithuanian figure of Jesus just looks TIRED. Weepy, too, but weeping from the sheer tiredness of it all.

    It’s funny–tears have never been a hangup for me. I cry anywhere, anytime. It bugs my family to death. Oh well. In fact, I knew I was in the right place, church-wise, because I cried in every service for the entire first year. Not until I came into the church was I able to stop crying.

    • I agree, Megan. He looks exhausted. And he think he must have been — often. Tears and sadness are enervating, tiring in the extreme. And he looked at this world he loved and saw so much pain. I’m tired, too, and I’m not Jesus! I’m glad you can cry easily, Megan – I do think it’s a gift, no matter what your family says about it.