A sweet mom from across the country posts the question on Facebook: “Can prayers be only tears?Cuz that’s all I’ve got now.” Yes, my friend. Oh, yes. Yes. Yes.
I know from experience. My own—past, present, and most likely, future. I also know from the shared tears of many friends. Turns out we’re in good company.Job’s eyes poured out tears to God (Job 16:20). God told King Hezekiah, “I have heard your prayers and seen your tears.” (2 Kings 20:5) The Psalmist said God even kept track of his tossings and tears: “You have kept my tears in your bottle.” (Psalm 56:8 ESV) Sometimes tears are all you have.
Or even groans.Or stony, dazed silence. I am taken back to dark moments long ago when I sat up all night in a little apartment staring into space, unable to pray.Even—for that one night—unable to cry. The pain of loss was just too deep. The feeling of betrayal was paralyzing. “Why, God?Why? Why? Why?” Actually, to be completely honest, I guess there was one prayer I croaked out: “I just can’t talk to you right now, God.”
In the long hours of that awful night, three thoughts penetrated my numbness.First, I knew friends were praying for me when I could not. Second, I thought I remembered reading somewhere that Jesus “intercedes for us at the right hand of God.” (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25, 10:10-12) And I had long loved that verse in Romans that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26-27)
Wordless tears. Deep groans. Lonely loss. The times when—at least for quirky poetry lovers like me—you remember random lines from Emily Dickinson. “I felt a funeral in my brain . . .”And “After great pain, a formal feeling comes/The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs . . .”
For most of us, unlike Emily, at times there simply are no words. But there is God.He knows our ragged hearts: “How long must I wrestle with my tears and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2) He hears our sighs: “All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9) He sits with us in our sorrow. Nicholas Wolterstorff’s plea from Lament for a Son comes to me: “Come and sit with me on my mourning bench.”
HE sits with us. And He does even more. He gives us hope. Sometimes earthly hope. There’s so much ahead that we cannot see. Tears are blinding. But—I have to be honest here—sometimes it’s not earthly hope. But always, always eternal hope. “. . . we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:18b-19a) Eventually we learn to take hold of that rope offered to us. Like those toddlers holding on to the rope as they follow the teacher, we learn to hold on. And no matter what, He holds the end of that rope.
So, my sweet Facebook friend—and every other friend whose prayers are only tears right now, here is my prayer for you (borrowed from the Apostle Paul): “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
There will come a day when there will be no more tears.But we’re not there yet. So in the meantime, cry when you need to. Just remember Who is sitting alongside you.