The Blessing of Tears

By Ann O’Malley

I hate crying.  It’s wet and messy, and it feels like a total loss of control.

I grew up as a sensitive child in a large family where tears were severely frowned upon.  During those turbulent years of puberty, when a girl’s emotions suddenly flare up for no good reason and she’s blindsided by an irrational need to weep, the bathroom was my refuge.  It was the only place in the house where I could go to be alone and undisturbed when the unwanted feelings started flooding my soul.
I learned to cry silently, to stifle the noisy sobs, so no one would discover what I was up to.

But maybe I can’t blame my distaste for tears entirely on my childhood.  Maybe it’s my natural desire to be strong, to be in control ~ and to be seen that way by those around me.  It seems like I’m at my weakest and most vulnerable when I’m weeping. I don’t like that.

During these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re immersed in suffering and stress unlike anything this country has experienced in decades.  Lost lives.  Lost jobs.  Lost futures.  Lost connections with other humans.  Lost in-person worship time.  Lost access to essentials like toilet paper.  Lost freedom to move about as we please.

It’s wearing me down.  My entire routine has changed, and I don’t do well with change.
It messes with my brain and my body.  Even something as simple and ordinary as going
to the grocery store can be a source of anxiety.  Will I find everything I need?  Will I be exposed to the virus?  How do I stay six feet away from someone coming down the aisle toward me?

In addition, I miss my people time, especially at church.  I’m concerned about loved ones who are susceptible to complications if they catch the disease.  My finances, which were just beginning to look better a few months ago, have become shaky again.

For the most part, I’m trusting God, resting in His strength and peace and presence.  But my health is somewhat fragile.  I have to pace myself carefully or I’ll reach the end of the day (or even the middle of the afternoon) physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  Then the changes, the losses, the uncertainty of the pandemic weigh on me.

One day it reaches a peak.  The stress, the self-doubts that come with extreme fatigue, the sense of hopelessness are all too much for me.  The tears well up and I can’t hold them back.

But with them comes a pleasant surprise.  I’d forgotten about the old idea of having a good cry.  As I allow my body to express what’s on my mind, I release the toxic thoughts and emotions that have been building up inside.  I’m filled instead with a soothing sense
of relief.

Psalm 84:6 (NLT) says When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. They have to pass through that low point. (Note “when,” not “if.”)  But as they do, they find it to be an unexpected source of comfort. That’s what’s happened to me just now.  I resisted the temptation to stifle my feelings, and I allowed myself to go through the Valley of Weeping.  And it turned out to be a place of refreshment.  This is what crying does for us.

The Old Testament associates rain with refreshment (NLT):

They drank my words like a refreshing spring rain. (Job 29:23)

You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land. (Psalm 68:9)

May the king’s rule be refreshing like spring rain on freshly cut grass,
like the showers that water the earth.
(Psalm 72:6)

When the king smiles, there is life; his favor refreshes like a spring rain. (Proverbs 16:15)

In a wet climate, storms become tiresome, monotonous, even depressing.  But the Israelites lived in a desert. They greeted the showers with joy and thanksgiving.  It
brought relief from the dryness and the heat and the glare of the sun.

Tears are like refreshing rain falling on my parched soul.  Not something to be dreaded and despised.  Not a sign of weakness, as our culture, and sometimes even Christians, tend to imply.  In his goodness, God provides them as a means of renewal, of turning around my dismal thoughts and filling me with His comfort.  Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of tears.

 

 

About the author:
Ann O’Malley is the pseudonym of a new author seeking a publisher for her memoir of suicidal depression.  Her pen name comes from “anomaly,” that feeling of being different, of not really belonging, which plagues so many of those who suffer from depression.  For more of her writing, check out her blog, “Those Who Weep: Not-Quite-Evangelically-Correct Thoughts on Suffering,” at https://thosewhoweep.blogspot.com.

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