Recently, a young friend asked me why we sometimes cry when we are in a worship service. I told him that people cry for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit is convicting us of sin. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by God’s grace in our life, and something that was said or done reminded us of that grace. Sometimes we are broken, at our wits end with the circumstances of life and we find ourselves at our Father’s feet where we feel safe to cry.
I am a presbyterian. We seem to be a people that like to have all of life tied up neatly without any of our emotions being shown. So, sometimes it is awkward, or embarassing to allow tears to flow in worship. Immediately, one gets the sense that everyone assumes your life is falling apart. Maybe it is. Maybe it is not. My hope is that when it is me crying, there aren’t as many eyes on me as it feels like at the time. The young friend who asked about this is also presbyterian, but he is now being exposed to people from other more charismatic traditions. So I think he may be assuming that presbyterians never have an emotional response to God’s dealing with them in a worship service. I told him that even though he may not see people crying, that doesn’t mean no one ever does. I also told him that adults will often make an effort to keep their tears to themselves, but not to assume no one is moved by the spirit in a presbyterian service. I guess I wanted him to understand that crying is not a sign of spirituality, but that tears can be an honest expression of how God is dealing with us.
Recently, our associate pastor preached a sermon on about tears that I found really helpful. He talked about reasons we shed tears: pain, joy, discouragement, hopelessness. That last one, hopelessness, is one of the hardest to bear. You know in your heart of hearts that God will do what is best for you. Yet, you have a fear of the unknown. A fear of how God will choose to work. The tears flow out of frustration that you’re not the one in control of the situation. Your tears flow because you want to trust God, and your having a hard time really doing it.
Here are some of the scripture passages Pastor Smith quoted in his sermon:
I am weary with my moaning;every night I flood my bed with tears;I drench my couch with my weeping.
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long,”Where is your God?”
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?
You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure.
What I really took away from this sermon is that it is not only ok to cry from time to time, but that God expects us to shed tears. He sees our tears and responds to them. God, our father in Heaven, wants to comfort us when we cry.