Stored in God’s bottle, written in God’s book
As he flees from his enemies, David pleads with God for deliverance. With copious tears he cries, “Hear my prayer, Lord, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping” (Psalm 39:12). But with the continuing silence of God and the unrelenting taunting of his persecutor – “Where is your God?” – David bursts out with a soul-wrenching cry: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1, 3).
David is desperate. “Fear and trembling have beset me,” he writes, “horror has overwhelmed me” (Psalm 55:5).
As he wrestles with his faith in God, an ancient custom of collecting tears comes to mind. In times of sorrow, the bereaved would collect their tears in bottles for safekeeping. These bottles were sacred possessions and were buried with people at their death.
With this picture in mind, David consoles himself and renews his faith in God’s loving care. God is keeping a record of all his tears. He is storing them in his bottle and writing them in his book (Psalm 56:8). Even if the enemy overtakes David, his tears are with God, and they will be reckoned and dealt with in the court of heaven.
Common to all
Tears are common to us all. Ever since our expulsion from the Garden of Eden, we have drenched the earth with our tears. Trials and tribulation are never-ending. Poverty, hunger, sickness, and disease have broken the hearts of millions. With conflicts and warfare, the pain and suffering have become untold. And so we have often asked, whether openly or in the secret of our hearts, “Where is God?”
Jesus tells us where to find God. “Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9). When God in Christ walked the dusty paths of this sin-laden earth, he was no stranger to tears. He identified with the tears of the poor and the destitute, the weak and the weary, the sick and hopeless. He became one with the friendless and the lonely, the despised and the rejected. And he wept!
He wept over Jerusalem. He dwelt in the midst of his creation and with “fervent cries and tears” offered up himself and redeemed it (Hebrews 5:7).
He went to the cross and now he invites us to follow him.
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Following Jesus means accepting a finished work, yet also a work that has begun. It means sharing in his tears.
But where is Christ now? Wherever Jesus could be found when he walked this earth is where we can find him still (Matthew 25:35–46). Like Mary Magdalene, there is healing for our tears as we attend to the tears of others, and one day at the portals of heaven, all tears will be wiped away, as we hear the joyous words, as recorded in Matthew 25:34, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance.”