…weep with those who weep.
– Romans 12:15
I didn’t realize how much I needed to cry.
You see, I was raised in a home where complaining wasn’t given much air to breathe. My parents were (and are) the kind of people that if adversity strikes you don’t gripe about it. On the contrary, you keep your head down, work on what you can work on, and trust God with the things you can’t change. I sincerely believe that upbringing has helped more than hobbled me in life. However, I also think it’s impacted how I emotionally deal with hard things. So, when bad things happen, I tend not to let sadness overwhelm me but narrow my gaze, set my jaw, and move ahead trusting God will continue to work in me and around me.
Again, I think that’s a good thing most of the time. But there are times when it’s not.
Last week was one of those times. Without going into details, some bad things happened. Real pain. Real sorrow. Real suffering. Yet my standard “keep your head down and be strong” strategy wasn’t cutting it. It left me feeling incomplete. Something was amiss in me. I began to sense that I needed to talk with friends about my struggles – guys who knew and loved me. So I did, and in describing my “bad times” I often found myself in tears. Sometimes I was unable to speak as woe washed over me. It was pretty clear in my tearful confession that I believed things were very, very hard. But I also discovered that after my confession my spirit felt lighter. In other words, sharing my pain with others to the point of tears actually ministered to me. Did my situation change? Nope. But there was no question I was “better” for doing it. It has given me some relief, decompressed me, help me come up for air. Looking back, I realize what I needed most at that specific time wasn’t teaching, counsel, or direction. I simply needed, in my wife’s parlance, a good cry.
The truth is sometimes the thing we need most in the face of bad times isn’t a stiff upper lip, keeping your head down, or charging straight ahead. It’s sitting down and shedding tears. To do anything less isn’t honest. We lie to ourselves and to God about our capacity and our neediness. We also forfeit a way of relief God has wired into us, one in which Jesus availed himself when times demanded (cf., Lk. 19:41; Jn. 11:35). Tears are good. Tears amongst friends are better. Tears amongst friends who know and love Jesus that will shed tears with you are a blessing.
So, don’t fall into the illusion that no matter how great the pain, you must always play the “strong one” in the room. Don’t worry, God has already claimed that seat. That same God also blessed you with the capability to express your pain through tears. And if there are seasons where deep sorrows need to surface, let them.
You may find afterwards what you needed most was a good cry.