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The Ministry of Tears

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
– Romans 12:15 (ESV)

I’m not much of a cryer. Actually, for a long season of my life (7th grade to late 20’s) I don’t think I shed a tear at all. It wasn’t that I never became sad over things, it just didn’t evidence itself in tears. However, over the past decade that has changed. I still don’t cry at the drop of the hat, but I do find myself deeply moved to the point of tears periodically. For someone who’s tear ducts were fairly dormant for so long, I actually like the fact that I’m at a place where tears can flow. Why? It’s because shedding them can be a powerful thing. Make no mistake – they can be cheap or of the crocodile sort – but, for example, when you can enter into someone else’s pain and weep with them, that’s a gift.

Today, I found myself in tears twice. Very unique for me. I can’t make myself cry. Like the changing of West Texas weather, it just happens. The first time I was responding to a long, lost friend’s letter. She had recently been in a tragic car accident that left her a widow and with one less child in her family and wanted to know what God had to say about life after death, salvation, etc. As I was typing my response I found myself getting choked up, my eyes began to moisten and lips began to quiver. I simply was overwhelmed with grief. What was crazy about it was that it wasn’t my grief. It was hers. Yet, I would like to think entering into her grief, albeit briefly, allowed me to craft the response that needed to be written. It helped formed my thoughts, arrange my sentences, direct my flow. It actually impacted my ministry to her. It was a gift.

The second time I crossed paths with tears wasn’t my fault. Someone else started it all and I’m very glad he did. I had gotten news today that confirmed a reality about my child I already knew. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome. My wife had taken my eldest to Texas Children’s Hospital for a clinical and fairly definitive evaluation and the word came back with great conviction and clarity: your son has Asperger’s and acute ADHD. Again, it wasn’t a surprise but it reminded me of a very real pain that my wife and I continually deal with in our lives. In sharing this news with a friend and dialoguing for a little while he asked if he could pray for me. No-brainer…

He prayed a prayer that completely mirrored my heart for my son. I was genuinely blessed by it. As he concluded praying his voice broke, then he became silent, overcome with emotion. I knew he loved me and loved my son.  His tears giving testimony to that precious fact. Now I partnered with him emotionally as tears began to flow from my eyes. He gathered himself and closed in prayer. Instinctively, we met each other and hugged; he said, “I’m sorry,” eyes still moist with tears. I told him that I deeply appreciated his prayer and even more so his tears, saying, “They have ministered to me more than even I know.”

Tears can do that. They can minister to those who are broken in ways that words can’t. They encourage people who find themselves in dark places that they are not only loved but also not forgotten. They proclaim, “I care about your pain because I care about you. And your pain in some small measure is mine.” So when you find someone whose gotten bad news or entered into bad times in addition to praying for them, graciously showing them the truths of Scripture, and serving them in various and sundry ways, don’t forget the ministry of tears.

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

4 thoughts on “The Ministry of Tears”

  1. Yancey, Man I feel you there, about your son. Your family will be prayed for. I got no answers, other than that our Lord has purpose.
    Very sincerely,
    Tommy in Arkansas.

  2. Yancey,

    My cousin (18 years old) has the same thing and he has some excellent doctors if you are looking for help there. Also, his mom has done a great job with him and if you need any advice, answers, or whatever, I’d be glad to put you in contact with her.

    I’m praying for you guys.

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