God created us and He made within us the impulse to cry, just as He made other appetites and needs. He never expected us not to cry, not to mourn, and not to grieve. Do you want some examples? Abraham cried when Sarah died, Gen 23:2. Jonathan and David cried when they realized they would not be together again in this lifetime, 1 Sam 20:41, and David cried again when he heard that Jonathan, and even Saul, were dead, 2 Sam 3:32. Hezekiah “wept bitterly” when he heard that he had a terminal illness, 2 Kgs 20:3. Paul wept real tears when he suffered for the Lord, Acts 20:19, and he wept for those who had fallen from the way, Phil 3:19. Where do we get this notion that righteous, faithful people never cry?
1 Thes 4:13 does not say we sorrow not over the death of loved ones. It says we sorrow not as others do who have no hope. “As” means in the same manner. Yes we sorrow, but not in the same way. We know something more awaits us. Our sorrow is tempered with the knowledge that we will one day be together again, but that does not mean the sorrow ceases to exist—it simply changes.
I cried often after my Daddy died, usually when I saw something he had made for me, or given me, or repaired that I had thought was a goner. He was handy that way, and I miss the care he showed for me in those small gestures. Even now, writing these things makes my eyes burn and water just a bit, several years after his passing. But I do not, and I have never, let grief consume me and keep me from my service to God and to others. I have not let it destroy my faith—my hope—that I will see him again and be with him forever.
Anyone who thinks that crying is faithless sits with Job’s cold, merciless friends. Job did cry. Job did ask God why. Job did complain with all his might about the things he was experiencing, yet “in all this Job sinned not with his lips” Job 2:10. What did he get from his friends? Nothing but accusation and rebuke. “Have pity upon me, oh you my friends,” he finally wails in 19:21. Paul says we are to “weep with those who weep,” Rom 12:15. If weeping were sinful, shouldn’t he have told us to, as Job’s friends did, rebuke them instead? No, God plainly says at the end of the book that Job’s friends were the ones who were wrong.
And, of course, Jesus cried. I have heard Bible classes tie themselves into knots trying to make it okay for Jesus to cry at the tomb of Lazarus. How about this? He was sad! To try to take that sadness away from Him strips Him of the first sacrifice He made for us when He carefully and deliberately put on humanity. Hebrews says He was “tempted in all points like us yet without sin.” That means He experienced sadness, and people who are sad cry.
Do you think He can’t understand our specific problems because He never lost a child?
And when he drew near he saw the city and wept over it…O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you would not, Luke 19:41; Matt 23:37. When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them... How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender, Hos 11:1-4,11.
Anyone who cannot hear the tears in those words is probably not a parent yet. God knows what it is like to lose a child in the worst way possible--spiritually. Don’t tell the Lord it’s a sin to cry.
I have seen too many people nearly ruin themselves trying to do the impossible. I have seen others drive the sorrowful away with a cold lack of compassion. Grieving is normal. Grieving is even good for you, and God knows that better than anyone since He made our minds and bodies to do just that. How much of a promise would it be to “wipe away all tears from their eyes” if He expected us to do it now? In fact, David asks God in a poignant psalm to collect his tears in His bottle—don’t forget that I am sad, Lord. Don’t let my tears simply fall to the ground and dry up, keep count of them—“keep them in your book” Psa 56:8. Do you think He would have preserved that psalm for us if crying were a sin?
If you have lost someone near and dear, if you have received a bad diagnosis, if you have been afflicted in any way, go ahead and cry. This isn’t Heaven after all. But don’t lose your faith. Sorrow as one who does have hope, as the father of the faithful did, as the “man after God’s own heart did,” as one of the most righteous kings Judah ever had did, as perhaps the greatest apostle did, even as the Lord did. Let it out so you can heal, and then go on serving your Lord. His hand will be on you, and one day—not now, but one day--He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4