“As I started to speak, all the anxiety, the sadness, and the anger I had been bottling up for the past twelve hours came rushing to the surface. “We woke up today,” I began. And then I lost it. As I continued, my voice cracked, and my eyes welled up with tears” (Haley, 2019). So writes Nikki Haley, in her book “With All Due Respect.” Nikki Haley would later become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, but at the time, she was Governor of South Carolina. She was speaking at a media conference on the occasion of the horrific shooting that took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church during one of their Wednesday night bible studies. It was the oldest AME church in the state, and the shooting left many people along with Nikki Haley heartbroken for the people of South Carolina.
Haley goes on to write, “When the press conference was finished, I was angry and disappointed with myself. I had done what I was afraid I would do. I had lost control of my emotions. As a woman, this is something that I have always been particularly sensitive to. My press aides had been watching while I spoke. I looked at them and said, “I am so mad at myself. Why did I cry?” Their response was one that I needed to hear. “You’re only human,” they told me through their own tears” (Haley, 2019).
Nikki Haley’s experience in a time of grief and tragedy included tears, yet she was angry and disappointed with herself. As her aides pointed out, she should not have been. Tears are a legitimate emotion that people need to be free to express and not feel ashamed or guilty in doing so.
How do we know that? It is straightforward. Jesus wept. If the incarnate Son of God could be unashamedly moved to tears, then so should we.
There were three occasions in the ministry of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, that Jesus wept. One of them is the shortest verse in the Bible, which simply states, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). Let’s look at these three incidents.
JESUS WEPT FOR AN INDIVIDUAL
In John 11, we have the story of Lazarus’s death, the brother of Mary and Martha, who lived in Bethany. After Jesus received the news about Lazarus’s death, he delayed coming for three days. Some people have suggested that Jesus did this because it was the belief of that time that a person’s spirit remained with them for three days after death. Intending to raise Lazarus to life, Jesus may have wanted to ensure that Lazarus was dead in the people’s minds. Be that as it may, Jesus eventually came to the two sisters in Bethany. John records that “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled” (John 11:33, NKJV). When they came to where they had buried Lazarus, Jesus groaned in himself again. John 11:35 (NKJV) states, “Jesus wept.”
Thus, shedding tears is a legitimate expression of deep emotion; An emotion that Jesus was unashamed to show publicly in a time of grief following a loved one’s death.
JESUS WEPT FOR A CITY
A short time after the death and resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus drew near to Jerusalem. Luke records the story in Chapter 19, stating, “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it” (Luke 19:41, NKJV). Why was He weeping over a city? Because they did not know the time of their visitation. They were rejecting the Savior sent to redeem them, and consequently, judgment was about to come on the city. I wonder if God is not looking for people who would weep over their city and even over the nation of America.
Amid His tears, Jesus prophesied, “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side” (Luke 19:43, NKJV). A prophecy that was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when Rome captured the city.
JESUS & THE AGONY OF OBEDIENCE
The final incident where Jesus wept takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He surrendered Himself to the will of the Father. Matthew records, He was “sorrowful and deeply distressed” (Matthew 26:37, NKJV). Luke states, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44, NKJV). Hebrews 5:7 (NKJV) goes deeper still, stating, ” in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death and was heard because of His godly fear.” Such was the price that Jesus paid when He went through Gethsemane to Calvary to pay the price for our redemption on the cross.
WHAT ABOUT US?
David Jeremiah wrote this about how Jesus wept. “In the same way, we should have deep emotions when we accept the reality of death, the judgment of the lost, and the depth of our own submission to God. Those are godly tears, and they will be richly rewarded” (faithwheel.com).
There is nothing to be ashamed of with those kinds of tears. They are godly tears: be it in a time of grief on the occasion of losing a loved one; be it in intercession for other people, groups of people in your community, or nations; be it as you face the agony of obedience in following God’s call to sacrifice and service. Indeed, the Psalmist writes about God putting “my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8, ESV). Beyond this world, in the promise of heaven, according to Revelation 21:4, there will be no more tears or crying. “There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, NKJV). Until then, it is alright to shed appropriate tears.
Isaiah, the prophet, was sent to give a message to King Hezekiah: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears” (2 Kings 20:5, NKJV). If, for whatever reason you have been brought to tears, take comfort in knowing that God has seen your tears. Remember, Jesus wept too.
Haley, N. R. (2019). With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace. United States: St. Martin’s Publishing Group.