Chapter 1 Precious Are the Tears
Practical Issues of This Life, CFP, Watchman Nee
Who [Christ] in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear. (Heb. 5.7)
Today I would like for us to examine together one special matter that has been on my heart. It concerns something which everybody has, though it is not always evident. It is often something done by us, yet not done every time. And what is that? It is the shedding of tears. I wonder if you know the significance of tears? It is a good sign if a person is able to shed tears. An individual who had had much experience in spiritual matters once made this statement: Giving your love to a person who cannot shed tears is like handing over your money bag to a thief to keep. This is quite true. A person often feels uneasy about giving his love to one who cannot shed tears. For tears are the one thing that is indispensable in this world. It can rightly be said that a person who is unable to shed tears has lost something of the very essence of man: he can no longer be considered as being human.
I strongly repudiate any man who is so haughty as to condemn tears in men. He may think himself brave for not shedding tears. He may deem himself as nobler and superior to others. But facts just do not bear this out! Let me tell you, a dry eye reveals a dry and hard heart. Such a heart has become rebellious, void of feeling, insensitive as wood and stone. Oftentimes tears betray the true heart condition of a person. It may be said that nothing discloses the inward state of a human heart more than do tears. Let me say from conviction that tears are the outlet of the heart.
How is this so? Well, suppose I am exceedingly sad today; so sad, in fact, that I can neither sigh nor talk—nor can I eat, sleep, nor work. Now what would you think would be the best way to dispel my sadness? If you were to ask a doctor how to cure such depression, he might perhaps use psychology by suggesting that I should invite my most intimate friends over for a heart-to-heart talk, or that I should listen to a few jokes so as to laugh off my gloom, or that I should visit some beautiful scenic places, or that I should take a walk, or that I should listen to some music so as to soothe my heart and forget my sorrow. Let me tell you, none of these ideas will work. But should the doctor be one who is deep in life experience, he would declare to me instead: Have a good cry and you will find that everything will be all right. Is this not true? When pressure builds up within you to an unbearable degree, you will discover that just two drops of tears from your eyes will release all the tension and settle every problem. How strange that what is in the heart finds its exit through the eyes. It seems as though the eyes have become the outlet of the heart. For as the tears flow, the heart is opened up.
I recall that there was once a disabled person who suffered greatly because of his physical deficiency. Nothing seemed to please him, and so he began to harbor the thought of suicide. For seven long years such anguish had burned as fire within him. Then one day he attended a concert. All those present were enthralled by the excellent performance, and their souls were enraptured. But what about this one man? His conduct was quite different. He just shed two drops of tears. So that when people saw it they said to him: “Is not today’s music most inspiring? Why then do you shed tears?” He answered them, “Formerly I was depressed and dejected, but as I listened to the music, my tears began to fall, and now I feel fine.” Music therefore seemed to open a hole in this man’s heart and caused his tears to flow. His heart originally had been filled with melancholy; but then his tears began to fall and the melancholy commenced to flow out with them. The humanity that had been so bound up and concealed by melancholia had at last been freed by tears. Now such an ability to shed tears demonstrates the humanity in a man. Some may regard tears as a sign of weakness; but quite the contrary, the one who has no tears to shed has buried his humanity.
Tears are the common portion which all mankind shares. And our Lord was no exception; He too shed tears. Though the Bible mentions the joy of the Lord, it never records His laughter. But it does recount the fact of His shedding tears. We notice in Hebrews 5.7 that the tears of the Lord are spoken of in plural number, perhaps indicating that He frequently shed tears. Isaiah 53 likewise indicates that Christ was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (v.3).
It can truly be said that tears are most precious. Physically speaking, only a tear can wash a man’s eyes. The world has so much dust and dirt constantly intruding upon them that, fortunately, with the incessant washing of tears a person may have clearer sight. Were there no tears in man’s eyes, then most likely no one could see anything clearly.
Yet tears have this cleansing effect not only in the physical realm, they have the same effect in the spiritual realm. In the physical realm, a few more tears will cause you to see more clearly. Similarly, without a few tears your spiritual eyes would soon lose their function. Mr. D. H. Panton once told a young couple that everything was fine with them except for one point. If they would observe this one thing more they would be perfect. The point he had in mind was a desiring of the coming of the Lord. During that evening the husband said to his wife: “Let us heed the word of the old man this time. Let us pray carefully for this matter this evening.” Whereupon he prayed faithfully concerning this matter, and expected his wife to continue in prayer as well. But she did not pray in this way, for, she thought to herself, Why should I ask the Lord to come quickly, since I have a good family, the relationship between my husband and me is most cordial, our living is quite comfortable, our house is very cozy, and everything seems to be going along exceedingly well? Seven months went by, and the husband suddenly passed away. Later, when the wife saw Mr. Panton, she took his hand and wept, saying, “Since the day of my husband’s passing I have been asking daily for the soon return of the Lord.” Tears had thus cleansed her eyes and caused her to see more clearly.
If you have ever studied physiology you will know that eyes are like glasses which need to be washed constantly, else they will not be transparent. Each time the eyelids close, tears flow forth to wash the eyes. In like manner, in the spiritual realm, if there are no tears, our spiritual eyes will not be washed; and so we shall be unable to see clearly. Those who have never been hurt, who have never encountered any unpleasant circumstance, who have never known anguish, vexation and oppression in spirit, are ignorant and undiscerning in many things.
There was once a couple who lived quite well before the Lord. They both were zealous and served the Lord well. After a short while, though, the child whom they loved dearly died. They became indignant, and declared: “Hereafter we will not serve God any more. We have served Him so faithfully, and yet He has allowed our child to die instead of blessing us.” They indeed were no longer zealous and seeking as before, but spent their days carelessly for eight or nine years. One day while the father was walking in the wilderness he saw a shepherd trying to lead a flock through a creek. It was quite natural in the country for there to be no well-built bridge over the creek. Instead, a narrow board usually served as a bridge. Man could therefore dare to cross it, but for the sheep this was fairly difficult. They were both timid and dull. So that no matter how this shepherd coaxed and coerced, his sheep refused to cross the creek. Finally, the shepherd was driven to take the most precious lamb away from its mother and compel it to cross over by means of the board. The mother sheep, out of love for her baby lamb, ran the risk of crossing the creek on the board by following. With the result that all the rest of the flock crossed over to the other side of the creek too. Now when the father saw this, he wept, and then he exclaimed, “It is enough!” By this incident he was revived spiritually. Later he testified as follows: “For fear lest I would refuse to cross over and thus be left on this side of the creek, God took my child and brought him over first. If a foolish thing such as a sheep knows to follow through, why should I linger behind?” The father now saw clearly.
Frequently tears can bring people closer to God. A lack of such tears may be the reason why people who sail through life easily and comfortably—never suffering any deprivation—seldom have depth. All who are Christians during the time of prosperity but never during the day of tears cannot help but be ordinary, for they will not have had much experience. But then, many unbelievers have never believed in the Lord because they too have never suffered. They think they can live in this world by eating and drinking and making merry from dawn to dusk; if nothing special happens to them, they are able to get by throughout all their life. How, then, can they ever see light if they have never once shed tears? No wonder they are so foolish, deadly drunk with the world, and unsaved. O Christians, let us not harden our hearts—unwilling to wash our eyes with tears—lest we become dull and blind in spiritual things.
Let us now see what the Bible has to say about tears. Today I do not wish to counsel you to make merry but would counsel you to cry. And why? Because today is the time for weeping; this world is a place for mourning. Let me repeat that he who sets aside tears neither knows the time nor his place in the world. All who cannot shed tears have already lost their essential human character, because the true meaning of life is unquestionably expressed in tears. And as we look into the Scriptures may we be able to see what the Lord wants us to do. For throughout the entire Old and New Testaments there are innumerable times where tears are being mentioned. There will be no need for us to go through them all; a study of only a few of these Scriptures will be sufficient for our present purpose, which is, to deal with such points as the meaning of tears, the relationship of tears to a sinner’s repentance, their relation to a believer’s prayer and work, and finally, God’s attitude towards tears.
A. The Meaning of Tears
Although tears sometimes flow forth out of sheer joy, usually they are caused by extreme sorrow or pressure beyond measure. Tears are shed because the sorrow, sadness, or pressure within us has become unbearable. Nevertheless, a most surprising thing happens at this juncture. As your tears flow, the many burdens within you are suddenly lightened. What was of tremendous importance before is now loosened up. It would appear as though something has gone out of you because of your tears. Otherwise, how could the many burdens inside you have been lessened? How could the pressure built up in you have decreased? Here may we see the meaning of tears. Tears discharge what is in the heart. Tears are the outlet of the heart. Let us search the Bible and take note of what it says about this matter.
“My friends scoff at me: but mine eye poureth out tears unto God” (Job 16.20). These were words spoken by Job after he had been assaulted by Satan and scoffed at by his three friends. Brethren, is this your experience, that you pour out tears before God when you are scorned and are oppressed by men? How often are you provoked by others? Have you ever been misunderstood and damaged? If you have encountered such things, did you cry as Job did? It is true that, before men, weeping is a sign of human weakness, but before God it is the proper thing to do. I often say that blessed is the man who has shed tears before God; because he who has never cried before God does not know what fellowship is, nor what it is to be near to God, nor how to cast a burden upon the Lord.
I have a friend who once told me something about tears. Said he: When your earthly path is blocked all around, when you are provoked on every side, when everybody accuses you of being wrong, and all your environment seems to revolt against you, then this is the time you should shed a few drops of tears before God; for this is your only way out, this alone can solve your problems. How very true are these words of my friend. And all who are experienced will say the same thing. If you wish to serve God faithfully and live godly, these things will come to you, and tears must flow. No believer can avoid such happenings. We may therefore declare that no one who is faithful has never shed any tears. Brothers and sisters, how about you? If you have told God your difficulty as well as your joy, I counsel you to offer your tears to Him too.
“Every night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears” (Ps. 6.6). David was in distress at that time. He was also physically ill. He wept every night till his bed was made to swim and his couch was wet all over. Forgive me my saying an unpleasant word, but I believe that all who can only laugh but never weep too are shallow and superficial. He who laughs and jokes all the day long betrays an emptiness within. For no one who has ever been dug up by God has failed to cry and weep. Tears express that which is inside a person, so that people are able to see what God has done in him. Yet what is indeed precious to God is not our tears shed in public to be seen by men but our secret tears which we shed for Him alone to see. “Tears unto God”, tears of the night—these are the truly proper, precious tears. We know David was disposed to weeping. In the Psalms are a number of places which record his tears. Each time he fell into sin or distress he shed tears before God. Not so with Saul, though, who knew only to lose his temper and be angry but never to shed tears.
We have already seen how tears are expressive of sorrow. We also know that sorrow creates deep feeling within, whereas our laughing touches the human heart very little. Laughter is somewhat superficial; but sorrow comes from within, and hence it enters deeply into another’s heart. This is universally recognized by all who are well experienced in life. Genuine tears disclose a wounded heart, and in the presence of such tears the heart melts. But tears which flow without anguish of heart are meaningless.
David was brought by God into such depth and had so much experience because he shed many tears. The profusion of his tears showed the multitude of his sufferings and adversities. Many lessons were learned in distress, just as Romans indicates: “tribulation works endurance” (5.3 Darby). Let us understand that David became what he was partly because of his tears. Had there been no tears to develop him, he would not have been any deeper than the ordinary person.
When the children of Israel were taken captive and carried away to the nations, people ridiculed them by saying, “What do you have now? The temple of your God is destroyed; your country is fallen. Where then is your God? What has happened to you?” It was under such a circumstance as this that the sons of Korah wrote a very meaningful psalm, part of which runs as follows: “My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” (42.3) At that time they really suffered, because people lashed out at them with very sharp words. They therefore had no other recourse but to shed tears before God. It is human nature to find opportunity to pierce and to hurt those whom we hate; people rejoice in another’s suffering. Hence we find that the enemies of Israel pierced the hearts of the Israelites with reproaches and ridicule so as to make them suffer. So that all they could do was to shed tears. Later on, however, we discover how God greatly regarded those tears.
“Then I returned and saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun; and, behold, the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter” (Eccl. 4.1). In this verse we see how tears flow because of hearing unpleasant words, how distress and oppression produce grief and anxiety. Being pressed by these things for some time until you can no longer endure them, you will find that your tears begin to gush forth.
“She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they are become her enemies” (Lam. 1.2). Lamentations was written by Jeremiah, and it is a book which reveals the experiences of the children of Israel in their captivity. This particular verse from the book shows us that due to treacherous treatment given them by men, the children of Israel wept with many tears.
From these various Scripture passages quoted we realize that tears are the result of oppression, treachery, ridicule, and all kinds of adverse circumstances, that tears often indicate pressure and pain. And we know that all these things happened to our Lord, otherwise His heart would not have cried out in tears. His tears tell us how He endured these things. Hence the shedding of tears is not something to be ashamed of; on the contrary, it is something holy.
I would say that in this world tears excel the smile. This world full of sin and perversity is fortunate indeed to have a few drops of tears with which to wash itself; otherwise, this world would probably be far worse. It is fortunate, in this blind and wicked generation, to have a few warm tears to betoken one final trace of human feeling. Were there not even a few tears evident, this world would truly be darker than hell. Due to God’s providential care, many beautiful flowers today are watered by tears in the form of rain-drops falling from heaven; or else they would all be withered.
The intimate relationships existing in this world between parents, husband and wife, brothers and sisters, and among near relatives are happily maintained by a few timely drops of tears; otherwise we would descend into living according to the conditions that shall mark the Great Tribulation. We know that the anti-Christ is someday coming; but today he is effectively restrained by tears. Without tears the sufferings on earth would undoubtedly be deepened and sin would be greatly increased. Tears, therefore, represent the true meaning of life. It shows that man has not yet completely abandoned his humanity but continues to retain a sense of sin. For where sin is present, there ought to be tears. Unhappy environment, sad event, and past recollection may all cause us to shed tears. Yet many have none to shed because they have forgotten their past history, forgotten their departure from the Garden of Eden, as well as forgotten their precarious standing today. So that in God’s plan of redemption man will not be able to return to his original position if he has no tears. A person who forgets what he has gone through sheds no tears. Tears, then, are the symbol of painful recollection.
B. The Effects of Tears
1. Concerning Salvation
Tears are not something one can himself control. If a person can shed them whenever he wants to, then such tears have lost their meaning and value completely. If weeping does not issue out of the anguish of the heart, it has absolutely no significance and is purely counterfeit. Though tears are beyond anyone’s own control, they nonetheless are everybody’s share and hence everyone should have them shed. If someone professes to have never shed any tears, I believe he is a man without a heart and cannot be called a Christian.
Let me now speak a few words to any unbelieving friends who may be reading these pages. Do you know that tears may bring people to the Lord Jesus? that weeping may cause people to draw nearer to God in heaven? This is because tears can remove whatever hinders, that is to say, the tears of repentance drive away sin.
Friends, do you realize what sin is? Do you know what it will bring? And have you repented of sin even to the shedding of tears? If you have never felt sorry for your sin, I wonder whether you really have a heart. Anyone who can shed no tears for sin is, may I say, like a piece of wood or stone which has neither affection nor feeling.
Whatever your heart attitude towards sin is, your eyes will express it. Oh, the many sins in this world! I do not believe I need to mention what we have sinned against God; if I were to speak just a little of that which we have sinned against other people, you would be convinced. Just consider all the offences we have ever committed against people. Of the people whom we have met—such as our parents, husbands or wives, brothers and sisters, relatives, friends, schoolmates, colleagues, and so forth—who can count the number of times we have transgressed against them, deceived them, or ill-treated them? We may be unrighteous in handling things, or we may be in arrears in our payments. All these are sins. Now if they are never settled, we cannot draw near to God.
How very grave the situation is. Do you recognize the seriousness of sin? You have sinned, you are now full of sin, and all these sins will bring you into the bottomless pit. Friends, repent and return! Let your tears wash you! It is true that the blood alone can wash away sin. This is indeed basic and primary, but there is that which is complementary though secondary—namely, tears. In other words, before God, sin is washed with the blood, but in the human heart it is cleansed by tears. It is quite true that before God, tears can never wash away sin, only the blood of the Lord can. Yet blood also demands tears. If the blood of the Lord is not accompanied by your tears, you have not really repented. The Lord’s redemption without man’s repentance and hatred of sin cannot wash away one’s sin. In order to have subjective experience it is necessary to have tears. Let us observe what the ancients did.
“Their heart cried unto the Lord: O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night; give thyself no respite; let not the apple of thine eye cease” (Lam. 2.18). Why did the Jews cry with tears? It was out of their repentance for their sin; and it was because Zion had been taken, Jerusalem occupied, and the people of Israel exiled to the east of the river Euphrates. At such a helpless moment they wept with tears for their sins, for the downfall of their nation, and for the destruction of the temple. I sincerely hope that today you would shed more tears and let your tears run down like a river day and night.
Oh that you, my unbelieving friend, would cry. He who can laugh at sin does not know what sin is, and neither does he know his destiny. One who has never shed tears is totally ignorant of the love of God and the preciousness of Christ. Anyone who fails to cry for sin fails to experience the joy of forsaking sin. To weep for sin is therefore indispensable. Have you done anything wrong to other people? Have you ever stolen somebody’s article? Do you have pride, jealousy, or hatred? Unquestionably, we have sinned much against men as well as against God. And hence one thing is needful on our part, and that is, we need to have some tears. Not just a crying outwardly without feeling the pain in the heart, for that is futile. Tears are not primarily outward; their source must be in the heart. Only that which comes from the heart can ever move people as well as touch one’s own self.
Yet shedding tears as a sign of repentance over sin is made even clearer in the New Testament. Read Luke 7.38 about the woman who, “standing behind at his [the Lord Jesus’] feet, weeping, . . . began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.” Whereupon the Lord said to Simon: “She hath wetted my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair” (v.44). Friends, may I ask if you have ever had this kind of tears? People in this world cry for various reasons: some cry because they suffer too much; some, because they hate too much; some, because they lose their temper in a quarrel. May I ask, though, if you have ever shed tears for your sin as did this woman?
Without any question the blood of the Lord cleanses all sin, but unless the blood is accompanied by man’s tears it cannot be effective in man. Once Alexander the Great received a letter in which was listed one by one his mother’s crimes. It was meant as an accusation of his mother before him. In reply, Alexander wrote but one sentence: “One drop of tears from my mother’s eyes washes away all her crimes.” And with that the matter was put to rest.
Of course, how ever much we shed tears, it cannot wash away a bit of our sin from before God. Nevertheless, the other side of the matter remains true: that in spite of the death of Jesus Christ, the efficacy of the blood will not come to us if there are no tears on our part. No one will accept the Lord and be saved without shedding the tears of repentance. Each one who truly believes in the Lord has the experience of repentance. A friend of mine once said that in reality there are two drugs for sin—one is the blood of the Lord, the other is our tears. Though this may sound strange, it is nonetheless true. In fact, no one who trusts in the blood has failed to shed tears. The typology in the Old Testament also bears this out. All who did not get rid of whatever leaven they had, could not keep the Passover; and all who did not eat unleavened bread could not eat the flesh of the lamb. Hence blood is of supreme importance, although it still needs to be accompanied by man’s warm penitent tears in order for the blood to operate in man. We as it were must take the Lord’s blood in our hands and mix it with a few drops of our tears. If a person is not sorrowful for his past sin, he cannot be saved.
Now let us turn our attention to the attitude of the believer towards tears. We have noticed how that woman wet the feet of the Lord with her tears. It causes me to think that whenever we come before the Lord, and even if we do not have the money to buy ointment to anoint the head and feet of the Lord, we each can nonetheless give Him our tears. And we can thank God for that. For the tears are as precious as the ointment. And how much better it is to bring tears to the Lord than to bring Him nothing. Hence let each of us bring his warm tears to the Lord!
2. Concerning Prayer
“Hear my prayer, O Jehovah, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, a sojourner, as all my fathers were” (Ps. 39.12). Tearful prayer before God is the best way to be heard. If tears are added to your prayer, it will be quickly answered. Many prayers are heartless because there are no tears. If you have heart, why not add your tears? Thus will you be able, as did the psalmist, to tell God: “I will not be long on this earth, for I am only a stranger and sojourner. It is miserable enough for me to be in this world, so please hear me.” And God will surely hear our prayers. Though there is no merit in the tears themselves, yet they do express what is in your heart; that is to say, you really have a heart desire. May we therefore add more tears to our prayers that we may be heard.
“Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the prince of my people, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee; on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of Jehovah” (2 Kings 20.5). How good a word this is! God sees our tears! Hezekiah prayed to God for more days to live, and he also wept. And God answered him. This shows how the Lord is pleased with our tearful prayers; such prayers can move His heart. In view of this, then whatever matter which cannot move your heart to tears cannot move God’s heart either. Hence it behooves us to shed more tears before the Lord. A weeping before men reveals your weakness, in that you lack the mien of a man; but a not weeping before God manifests that you are as numb as wood and stone.
I personally treasure very much this word in 2 Kings 20.5: “I have seen thy tears.” Each time we meet a difficult situation which is heartbreaking, distressing, pressed beyond measure and with no way out, we can lift up our heads and drop a few tears before God, for He surely sees. Yet be clear of this, that tears are futile if they are not shed before God. Naturally, there are many people in this world who are prone to weeping. Man’s cry simply expresses his own sorrow and distress; it in itself will not produce any positive result. Tears with prayer, however, is effective. Every time you cry in distress, why not add to it prayer? You may tell God your sorrow and distress through prayer. The Bible shows us not only the tearful prayer of Hezekiah but also the prayers and supplications of our Lord which came with strong crying and tears (see Heb. 5.7).
Oftentimes it is useless to cry to each other; but if one cries to God it is effective, since God sees one’s tears and will hear one’s prayer. Indeed, every drop of tears shed before God will be counted by Him—“Thou numberest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle; are they not in thy book?” (Ps. 56.8) Please note that such is the advantage of having tears before God. O sorrowful heart, if life makes you suffer, and you are pressed beyond measure, passing your days in misery, and weary in battling many problems, why not cry before God? Let me tell you, this will never fail. God will record the tears you shed each time. He will put them in His bottle, which means He will remember all your sufferings. Thank God, our tears do not fall to the ground and mix with the dust; rather, they are stored in God’s bottle of remembrance; for are they not in His record-books? God will not forget; He will always remember our tears.
Let me ask you a question. Do you know what kind of cry is most comforting and satisfying? When does a child cry the loudest and strongest? It is not at the time when he is beaten nor when he is hungry, but at the first instance that he sees his dear mother at home after he has been insulted and troubled by people on the outside. At that moment he will cry very loud and very long. Oh, to cry before a lover is most consoling. There is neither meaning nor effect to cry before ordinary people. Where and when should we therefore cry? Undoubtedly before the God who cares most for us and who is the dearest to us. Let us cry our heart out before Him, for He treasures us. It is most comforting to cry before the Lord because He is listening and seeing. He will perform that which we ask for. Oh, we surely will reap the best consequence if we weep before God.
Let us further consider the advantage of tearful prayer as we look into the story recorded in Mark 9 of the father and the son. “Straightway the father of the child cried out, and said, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (v.24). At that moment the father’s heart was suffering greatly, and he hated himself for his unbelief. The father had witnessed the intense suffering of his child and had tried everything without result. And then he had asked the disciples of the Lord to help, but that too had been of no avail. He was therefore really desperate now. Under such anguish and anxiety, he could not help but cry out immediately to the Lord. And what was the outcome? The outcome was that the Lord heard his prayer, and the child was healed. We need to see that many prayers are ineffectual for the simple reason that there are no tears.
“How unceasing is my remembrance of thee in my supplications, night and day longing to see thee, remembering thy tears, that I may be filled with joy” (2 Tim. 1.3-4). Why did Paul long to see Timothy? Because of the tears of Timothy. In the Bible those who serve the Lord seem all to be persons who know how to weep. So that I believe that no one who serves the Lord well will be exempt from shedding tears. Tears appear to be a necessity to workers. It is therefore best if tears are mingled with prayer for God to remember and to hear.
3. Concerning the Lord’s Work
Let us now see what is the relationship of tears to the work of the Lord. What is its place?
“Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9.1) Jeremiah wept often; hence he is called the weeping prophet. “And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters” (v.18). “But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because Jehovah’s flock is taken captive” (13.17). If people did not listen to God’s word, Jeremiah wept because of it. “And thou shalt say this word unto them, Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease; for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous wound” (14.17). He wept because the children of Israel were wounded. No one who faithfully serves the Lord in His word can keep away from tears. Indeed, anyone who sheds no tears for the work only proves that his heart is not on the work. All who have the work on their hearts cannot refrain from crying. Sometimes in dealing with a person, you have exhausted every method you know of and still you fail. Let me tell you this: that there is yet another means at your disposal—to shed tears. At those times when all other kinds of persuasion have been used without result, the last persuasion will be tears. When all kinds of weapons have been wielded without any victory, the last weapon to be used is tears. People may resist the other weapons, but in the presence of weeping they have to yield.
None who loves the Lord does not weep. Weep with sympathy for sinners, weep with desire for the glory of God, and weep with eagerness to overcome the enemy. Of course, those who have no heart to please the Lord do not have such experience. But all whose hearts are on the Lord’s work are bound to weep. Jeremiah was one of the prophets in the Old Testament greatly used by the Lord. He attained to such distinction because he shed many tears. He cared so much for the children of God that he cried day and night.
Without a doubt tears are something we must have, because this world is in great need of much tears by which to wash her. Many young believers need to be nurtured and disciplined with tears. Spiritual life needs to be maintained with tears. Numerous sinners need to have the seed of the gospel sown in their hearts with tears. Without weeping, nothing can be done. Today the Christian’s consecration is not adequate. Many offer their bodies, strength, money, and time; yet they fail to offer their tears. No wonder many works are incomplete and untold numbers of believers are not nurtured.
If we shed tears for the work, what will be the outcome? Do be aware of this, that tears will not be shed forever, because there is a time for it to cease. For please note this verse: “Thus saith Jehovah: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith Jehovah; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy” (Jer. 31.16). If we really shed tears for the work, God says we shall be rewarded.
One can easily stress the importance of tears in God’s work when one notes its significance in the family. Look at how a mother treats a child. I have never seen a good mother who only gets anxious but never cries over the bad conduct of her child. Among Christians the tears shed by mothers for their children are most effectual. The coming home of a prodigal depends largely on the tears of the mother. However bad and far away a prodigal may be, he will soon be brought back if a good mother at home is weeping for him. What can anxiety, strife, and punishment exhibited by the mother accomplish for a bad child if there are no tears in the mother? A woman may possess all the virtues, but she is not a good mother if she lacks tears. So too, in our work of dealing with sinners or young believers, tears are also necessary. To seek out a young brother, to help him, and to read the Bible with him—all these measures are profitable; yet they are not complete without that which Jeremiah had prayed for; namely, “Oh that mine eyes were a fountain of tears.” It is good for many who serve the Lord to ask God for utterance, power, knowledge, opportunity, and so forth; still, one thing must not be lacking in the Lord’s work, and that is, “Let mine eyes run down with tears.”
Such an example for us is not only to be found in the Old Testament but in the New Testament as well: “Serving the Lord with all lowliness of mind, and with tears” (Acts 20.19); “Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears” (v.31). How did Paul serve the Lord? He served with all lowliness of mind and with tears night and day. Shedding tears is therefore a good way to work. Let me say again that no one is perfect who does not shed tears. Though he may do quite well in many things, he is not reckoned as perfect if he has no tears. In serving the Lord we must add to it our tears (which are to be shed before both the Lord and men). Yet this is not something put on; rather, it is the spontaneous outcome of a heart that has been deeply moved.
Paul asked the elders of the church in Ephesus to remember how for three years he had served them with tears. May I ask if you too have shed tears in this manner for the work? In order to ascertain whether one is zealous and single-minded in the Lord’s work, one needs only to inquire if he has wept. Frankly speaking, a work will never prosper without weeping. The lack of this one thing done in secret will hinder the success of the work.
“Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be made sorry, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you” (2 Cor. 2.4). We all know that the first letter to the Corinthians was written after Paul had heard from the household of Chloe as to the conditions of the Corinthian believers. In that letter he had pointed out to them their many errors, and had reprimanded them with the most straightforward and severest of words. Here in the second letter, though, Paul tells how he had written that first letter. It had been written out of much affliction and anguish of heart with many tears.
When you hear the fall of any brother or sister, do you weep with much tears as did Paul? Without question the shedding of tears is not an easy thing. If it requires some strength to laugh, it needs far more strength to shed tears. Do you have the strength to weep? Notice in Paul’s writing to the Corinthians how severe were his words. They cut through like a sword. Said Paul, “Put away the wicked man from among you” or else. Such words do indeed cut deeply. One thing is quite certain, however; which is, that if you want your words to wound others, let those same words first wound you; for without you being pierced by those words yourself, those words of yours will not be able to pierce others. Paul was truly this kind of person. When he uttered these most heavy and cutting of words in the first letter, he had in reality uttered them with tears. Before ever his words had been spoken and other people had begun to feel the pain, he himself had suffered first. Let us therefore recognize that people themselves should suffer first before they can cause others to suffer. Nothing will be accomplished if they only make other people suffer.
For this reason, each one who works for the Lord must have experience in tears. Whenever you see a brother fall or defeated you are not worthy to do the Lord’s work nor worthy to either reprimand or persuade if you shed no tears. Before you chide a brother or a sister, before you tell him his error, you first must be afflicted and hurt by the sharpness of the words to be spoken. Only in this way are you qualified. How easy it is to speak of people’s weakness, but how hard to speak it with tears. Yet only the person who has tears is ever really qualified to speak.
Thank God, the blood of His Son once fallen to the ground has never turned back, so that people may still be saved through its efficacy. Thank God, too, that the tears of His Son have not turned back either, so that we today may know His heart of concern and learn to shed tears before God and men. Let us follow the footsteps of our Lord and shed some more tears in our prayer and work.
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126.5,6). Are you thinking of witnessing for the Lord? This verse tells you how you should do it. For the seed here is the gospel, and the sheaves are the saved souls. The seed you sow needs to be watered with your tears in order for it to grow. Without water the seed will not grow. Do not imagine that it is easy to bear fruit; it takes tears to be successful in such fruit-bearing. What is said here is that if you shed tears secretly before God, you will with rejoicing bring some sheaves home. How frequently we make the preaching of the gospel common. No wonder the seed neither grows nor ripens. Tears are closely related to work. Whatever work lacks tears, it is bound to end in failure, because tears represent your heart. Where your tears are, there also is your heart. This is an indisputable fact. May we be zealous and let the tears run down for God’s work.
C. What God Will Do to Our Tears
Let us now see how God will treat our tears. “Thou numberest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle; are they not in thy book?” (Ps. 56.8) God does remember; He numbers our tears. He never forgets one drop of them even.
“Thou hast fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in large measure” (Ps. 80.5). “Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling” (Ps. 116.8). God seems to give us tears to drink and to eat. In fact, our whole life on earth is spent in tears. We make tears our companion. How this world is a land of tears. Almost every square foot of red earth is wet with tears. It in effect can be said that no place is dry. For everything here on earth is able to make us cry; every circumstance will pierce our heart. There is no peace on earth. Only hurt is the situation here. God, however, will deliver our eyes from tears and our feet from falling. And this day will soon come; we will not live forever in such a tearful world.
“And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7.17). The people in view here are “they that come out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v.14b). God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes. This is the Lord’s promise given before the millennial kingdom.
“And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away” (Rev. 21.4). After the millennial kingdom the Lord also promises all the saved ones that He will wipe away their tears.
I delight greatly in the New Jerusalem. Not because it has the street of pure gold and twelve gates of pearl, but because there is the presence of the Lord and the absence of any more tears there. If we die today, it is not for vexation but for rest, just as we might lie down to sleep a while after having become tired of walking. However, we all are waiting for that day of no more tears to come, we are not waiting for death. People like Paul have rested for about two thousand years. Some of us may go to rest today. Yet should the Lord tarry longer, the remainder of us may have our earthly days prolonged to thirty or fifty years. Even so, thanks be to God that that day is coming, this world shall weep no more.
The Lord has borne our pain so that we may not suffer again in the future. Thank God, there shall be no more pain for there is no more sin. Trouble, pain, and tears arise from sin, but there shall not be any sin any more, and hence, no more tears forever. Praise God, the days of sorrow will not last long, the New Jerusalem is coming soon, and this tearful world shall instantly pass away. Oh the wonder of it, that on that side all pains are gone because all sin is taken away.
On that day the Lord will give us a resurrection body. I think that that body will be similar to ours today, possessing all the different members that our body has today; yet it will be a transformed body. And in this transformed body one thing shall be missing—the tears in the eyes. For you see, tears are something for the night; and hence, there will be no more need of them, since night will be done away.
How blessed we are. This earthen vessel of ours shall not work and pray on earth forever. As long as we are still here, we are satisfied with God. But, this will not be for long. Oh, that day is coming. And how I wish that day to come quickly.
In conclusion, then, let me end with a story. Towards the end of the First World War a battlefield was full of heavily wounded soldiers, both French and German. A wounded Frenchman gave a wounded German a drink of water out of his bottle. They were both Christians, and both were dying. After the German soldier finished drinking, the French soldier took his hand and said, “There shall be no more war over there.” And with that they both collapsed and died. Let me too say today that over there, there shall be no more tears.