A popular song called, ‘I Can Only Imagine’ invites us to imagine what it will be like when we meet up with Jesus after our death. Although I absolutely love the song, there’s one thing I wonder about when I hear it. The song doesn’t contemplate or mention the possibility of tears. Probably because of a certain verse in the book of Revelation.
He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world, and it’s evils are gone forever. (Revelation 21:4 NLT)
There will be no sorrow or crying or pain because the old world will have passed away. In other words, there will be nothing to cause sorrow, pain and tears. No sin, no selfish hurtful people, no fallen planet with it’s disasters, no sickness or disease, etc.
That will be wonderful! However, again I wonder about the tears. Doesn’t it seem to you like there’s a place in Heaven for the good kind of tears? This morning during my prayer time, I felt a wonderful connection with God that brought me to tears. Sometimes when I hold my wife or hug my children, attend a wedding or even think of how much I love my granddaughter, I’m moved to tears.
Yes, I’m a sentimental guy, but I’m in good company. The Bible records David crying a lot and once he’s mentioned as weeping until he had no strength left to cry. Then there’s Jeremiah the weeping prophet who wept over God’s people, their refusal to listen to God and their coming destruction.
Out of all the weeping Bible characters though, my personal favorite is Joseph. When his brothers (who had sold him as a slave and thought he was dead) came to Egypt, he secretly overheard them lamenting what they had done to him and he wept. Joseph wept again when he was reunited with his younger brother Benjamin. When he finally told his brothers who he was, forgiveness and love flowed. The Bible said he wept so loudly that he was heard throughout the palace. When he was reunited with his dad, the Bible says that Joseph hugged him and wept on his shoulder for a long time. When his dad died, Joseph threw himself on his body and wept over him and kissed him.
David and Jeremiah cried mostly as a result of sin – and the sorrow that it left in it’s wake. Joseph’s weeping came mostly when relationship was restored, needed to be restored or because it was (in the case of his dad’s death) temporarily suspended.
Let’s not forget the Bible’s most famous verse about tears, ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35). A verse recorded when Jesus arrived on the scene to raise His good friend Lazarus from the dead and saw everyone else weeping. The Bible records that twice during this event, Jesus was deeply moved. So was that just something Jesus did as a man? Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” Jesus represented God in everything he did, even in his tears. The ability to be deeply moved and show emotions are something God gave us from Himself.
I love what happened when Mary Magdalene and Jesus were reunited after Jesus’ resurrection.
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:10 – 16)
In a moment Mary went from tears of grief, confusion and pain, to tears of joy, amazement and thankfulness. Notice the angels and our Lord didn’t object to Mary’s tears. They only questioned her reason, “Why are you crying?”
Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would comfort those who mourn by replacing beauty for ashes, joy for mourning and praise for despair. (Isaiah 61:3) It’s true that ashes (devastation), mourning (loss) and despair (hopelessness) all cause sorrowful tears. However, beauty (restoration), joy (hope) and praise (thankfulness) also cause tears, but the kind we love to shed.
Before the fall, God created Adam and Eve with tear ducts and the ability to cry, weep and shed tears. Although I look forward to the day that there will be no sorrowful reasons to weep, I believe that tears of beauty, joy and praise should flow now and I’m hoping for all eternity. I believe that the book of Revelation is talking about tears of sorrow and not the tears our tear ducts were created to shed.
For those of you who think that heaven will be relatively emotionless and therefore practicing stoic frigidity now, my advice to you is to stop balling it all up inside and let it loose! God is love and he invented it’s emotion, it’s expression, and it’s tears. When you’re connecting with God and those you love, don’t be afraid to wear your love on your sleeve. Those tears bring God glory!
For those of you who are shedding tears of sorrow, don’t give way to despair. God has promised you restoration and has given you reason to hope and be thankful. He understands your tears and what you’ve been through and he’s there to comfort you. He’s also gently asking you, “Why are you crying?” because he wants you to look to him with hope, faith and expectation, trusting that he will turn your tears of sorrow into tears of restoration and joy.
The fact that the song (I Can Only Imagine) leaves out the possibility of tears becomes ironic when you realize how many of us have cried listening to it. If the very thought of seeing our Lord on that day brings us to tears, what will hold them back when it really happens? I don’t know about you, but I can imagine what I’ll be doing, I’ll be pulling a Joseph and breaking down and weeping tears of joy in His loving arms. And you better hope you’re not in the lineup behind me because I’ll be there for a long time.
For help with teaching your children about their Faith, check out The Singing Bible.
(RICK OSBORNE / Christian Author, Speaker & Dad)