If you people won’t listen, I’ll go off by myself and weep over you, Weep because of your stubborn arrogance, bitter, bitter tears, Rivers of tears from my eyes, because God’s sheep will end up in exile. Jeremiah 13:16–17 (The Message)
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes lets us know that there is: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NET). How do we know when it is time to weep and mourn rather than laughing and dancing? How close must trouble or heartache be to make us pay attention? Sustained weeping and mourning are no more viable than sustained laughter and dancing, but we cannot afford to look at weeping and mourning as something to be avoided at all costs.
The prophet Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” We could say that it was because of what he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, but that would not be a complete picture. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus and he wept as he entered Jerusalem because he knew that though he came to his own, they had not received him. We also remember what happened in Mark 6 that as Jesus left the boat and looked over the many people, he was “moved with compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
What provokes us to weep? My predecessor in this ministry, Dan Mariano, shared the story of a well-known minister as they visited New York City. As they were driving around, this man of God began to weep to the extent that Pastor Mariano asked him if anything was wrong. The essence of his reply was this: “I see so many people who are walking the streets, crowded together and I know that most of them are lost, without Christ.” There was a man whose heart was moved by the same things that move the heart of Jesus. Again, I ask the question, “should we be weeping?”
Some people have no difficulty weeping at all; they are sensitive and tender, easily moved at weddings, funerals, and so on, while others remain stoic and seemingly unmoved. Our reactions to what is going on around us, near and far, are indicators of the tenderness of our heart. Although society tries to place constraints and expectations on what are acceptable displays of emotion, especially for men, the capability to weep and be moved with compassion is a reliable indicator of how our heart is aligned with the heart of God.
Listen to the words of Job: Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor? Job 30:25 (NIV). I am reminded of these words from the worship song, Hosanna: “Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause.” I want my heart to move in sync with the heart of Jesus and weep at what causes him to weep. I want to be moved by the things that move him.
To be clear, weeping flows from a heart of compassion, but that is not enough, there must be corresponding action. Thinking back to Mark 6:34, after it says that Jesus “was moved with compassion,” it goes on to say that he began “to teach them many things.” Weeping is not the end; it is the beginning.
There is no shortage of things to weep about in this world, but there is a real danger of becoming hardened and calloused. It is not difficult to become judgmental because let us be honest, there are a lot of people doing a lot of stupid sinful things and it is not difficult to get to the point where we will believe that people in trouble are just getting what they deserve.
This is the time to encourage each other to never be stubborn or hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13 (TPT)
It may be a different way of looking at this, but I believe that we can become hardened and stubborn about other people’s sins by becoming indifferent or unmerciful and that is why we must be diligent to encourage each other. Please, dear Lord, give us hearts and tears like yours, and may we weep as you weep.
We have asked the question, “Should we be weeping?” Certainly not all the time, but if Jesus saw things that caused him to weep, why should we be any different? Paul put it this way: “…weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (CSB). Certainly, in this fallen world, many are weeping and when we weep along with them, we identify with them and we encourage them. That alone should be a good enough reason to weep.
There is much more that could probably be said but let us wrap it up this way; there is a promise in Scripture that we must not forget. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. Psalm 126:5–6 (NLT). Weeping and the accompanying tears cause us to be identified both with Jesus, who gave us the example, and those who are wounded and hurting, and this will result in a great harvest of salvation and reconciliation. Remember, there is a time for weeping, but when the great harvest comes in there will be joy and singing.