Tears and the Love of God
We all have cried at least a few times in our lives. Personally, I cry often. Sometimes it is when I read a touching letter or during an emotional part of a movie. I have even been known to cry at well-marketed commercials, too. But why do we cry? Why do our bodies make tears? And how can we see God’s creative hand in it? Well, first we need to talk about tears themselves. You see, our eyes produce three known types of tears. The first type is basal tears which our eyes constantly produce. They actually are released over our eyes in three layers. The first is a mucus layer to keep moisture on the eye. The second layer is an aqueous (or watery) layer that is for hydration and protection from damage to the eye. It actually has chemicals in it that are antibacterial. The third layer is an oily lipid layer to keep the surface smooth and to prevent other layers from evaporating.
We produce basal tears constantly. In fact, your eyes will produce about 30 gallons of tears during your lifetime!
The second type of tears is called reflex tears. These are made when our eyes experience irritation, such as when we chop onions. Designed to flush away harmful chemicals or particles, they are released in much larger amounts than basal tears. Reflex tears contain lots of antibodies to prevent any harmful microorganisms that might attack, too.
The third type of tears is the one we think of most often: emotional tears. You know why these are released. They happen when we feel deep emotions, such as fear, sadness, or even excess hilarity or happiness. When my family plays board games, for example, I often find myself laughing so hard, I end up crying! Why is that? Well, the amazing design of our body allows us to cry emotional tears when the body feels a loss of stabilization.
You better believe I am unstable when I am laughing that hard!
These tears are released to help stabilize our moods. Scientists are still completely unsure why these tears are helpful, but some studies have shown that emotional tears contain higher levels of stress hormones, such as enkephalin, which is an endorphin and natural painkiller. Isn’t it amazing that our bodies produce hormones that help to reduce pain and make us feel better when we are stressed?
So where am I going with all this?
Well, we know of several times in the Bible where men and women, and even Jesus, shed tears. Usually, the accounts are associated with deep emotions, so they are involving more than the basal or reflex tears. They are emotional tears.
It is not a mistake that we were made as people with emotion. Our modern Western society has often encouraged us to hide our feelings and hold things inside. But think of the Israelites. I often think about why God chose these people and their amazing culture. Many Mediterranean cultures, like the Israelites, are filled with people who freely express their emotions. Coming from a Middle Eastern background, I know this intimately.
When my family is happy about something, there is dancing, food, singing, food, hugging, and more food. When they are sad, there are tears, food, hugging, food, and...well…more food.
You always know what they are thinking because it is held out there for us all to see! But I think that is a good thing.
The Bible often mentions tears as a great means of expressing emotional stress, happiness, and grief. Who are we to think otherwise?
And science is beginning to reveal to us some of the many benefits of shedding tears. They are a healthy part of living life.
So if you are dealing with the emotional stress of grief, don’t hold back your tears! It is a great thing to express your emotions, instead of keeping them inside. We aren’t designed to walk this life alone. We are a part of the greater body of Christ. Find those around you who you can be transparent with. I mean, we shouldn’t be airing our deepest feelings to the world, necessarily. But we shouldn’t be holding them to ourselves, either. Look for a dear friend or family member who you can be safe with. Share your heart!
Parents, it is so important to show emotion in front of your children. Let them see you when you are stressed, happy, sad, or concerned. Then let them watch as you work through those situations, praying, sharing, and living them. You will be opening up opportunities to guide them as they become young adults and need to work through challenges.
Most importantly, show them the importance of throwing “...all your anxiety upon him [God], because he cares for you.” (1Pet. 5:7)
Remember, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18)
So if you’re dealing with grief, emotional stress, or even sheer joy, you don’t need to hold back your tears. Allowing them to flow helps your body to do its job of keeping you healthy. Allowing them to flow helps you to communicate to those around you what’s going on. Allowing them to flow builds your relationships with dear friends and family.
It can bring you to your knees to the One who made you to feel. The One who loves you! The One who wants you to come to him because, indeed, he cares for you!