No More Tears

No More Tears

When bathing little people, there is a product that every parent comes to love and appreciate: shampoo that doesn’t hurt if it ends up in little eyes.  No Tear Shampoo.  Let’s face it, wiggly little bodies make it nearly impossible to keep the soap and shampoo away from those sensitive eyes.  And while a “no tear” product is wonderful, I think all of us, deep down inside, wish there was a “no tear” treatment for life.

One of the great hopes of the Christian life is that heaven will be a place where we will no longer be burdened with sorrow, sadness, death, or tears.  Listen to John’s triumphant words in Revelation 21:

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

This, however, is not a hope restricted to the New Testament.  In fact, God has always been preparing His people for such an existence.  Consider the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.”

In fact, this was the anticipation from the Garden itself.  In the beginning, God was with His people and there was no death, or sadness, or sorrow.  It was a result of sin that such sorrow and death came into the world:

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good an evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Yet our parents rebelled against their heavenly Father (and we do the same each day).  Rather than hopeless devastation, in mercy and justice, God cast them out of the Garden.  But before doing so, He promised them that through the seed of the woman, a Rescuer would be born who would do battle with that ancient serpent and restore them to the Garden and everything that it entailed (Gen 3:15).

Why this walk through the Scriptures?  This past week, as I’ve spent time crying (and weeping) over my son who passed away seven years ago, I was struck by how often we try to live as though we are back in the Garden – with no more tears – when we are in fact still under the veil of death.  For whatever reason, our American culture has taught us that (1) we don’t need to cry, and that (2) crying is weakness, and that therefore (3) we shouldn’t cry.  But the Bible teaches us something very different.  We rightly express our sadness through tears, for these tears demonstrate our longing for something better, something altogether different.  Not only did Jesus weep over death (John 11:35), but God promises to safely keep track of all the tears we shed in this life (Ps 56:8).  Honestly, some of us have bottles that are nearly empty, not because we haven’t faced the heartache of sorrow, disappointment, pain, suffering, or death, but because we have refused to let ourselves grieve.

We rightly express our sadness through tears, for these tears demonstrate our longing for something better, something altogether different.

At almost every funeral, I call on the family of the deceased to take time to grieve in the coming weeks and months.  Not only do I believe it is a biblically necessary part of processing that which we were never created to process (the pain of loss), but I share this because I have experienced first-hand the terrible numbing effects of resisting grief.

We cannot avoid grief altogether.  Our soul must process the pain of loss.  Different people employ different methods to try to push it off.  Some will resort to drugs or alcohol to try to numb the pain without facing it.  Others will get lost in a hopeless spiral of depression.  Some will distract themselves with pleasures, whether that be eating, entertainment, or illicit indulgences.  Others, such as myself, will distract themselves with busyness, whether through work, ministry, or serving others.  For me, I unintentionally pushed back the grieving process by caring for my wife in the wake of our son’s loss.  But as she was coming through her grieving process, rather than take the time to grieve myself, I threw myself into ministry, serving the Lord and others.  Better than drowning my sorrows in alcohol?  Yes.  Healthy?  No.

What happens when we keep pushing back the inevitable grieving process?  We begin to anesthetize our soul.  We teach our soul that sorrow is a bad thing (because of the pain associated with it) and refuse to allow ourselves to enter into it.  Down the road, when we may want to venture into these emotions, we find the room locked and the key apparently missing.  But the key isn’t missing at all.  The key is back where we began this path of grief avoidance.  Grieving such painful loss is unavoidable.  We may delay it, but we cannot put it off forever, because we are still on earth and not yet in heaven.  It is not a holy thing to neglect tears, for in doing so, we neglect the care and health of our soul.

Grieving such painful loss is unavoidable.  We may delay it, but we cannot put it off forever, because we are still on earth and not yet in heaven.

We long for a time where there will be no more tears, and sometimes try to make that heavenly anticipation a present reality.  But some things can only come in the life to come.  Until that time, tears are a part of living in a fallen, sinful, death-encompassed world.  But it will not always be so.  Let us resolve to not settle for substitutes or faking it as though heaven has come to earth.  Let us lament the pain of the present life, spurring our hearts toward a greater appreciation and longing for the life to come, one that will include no tears.