Monday, January 27, 2014

Tears in a Bottle

     One of the reasons I so love the Psalms is that they represent a wide range of emotions but always point to the God of our salvation.  Though they may begin with the psalmist crying out, they end with  praising God for His answers and His hope.  I can identify with that.
Replica of an ancient tear bottle
     In Psalm 56:8, David writes comforting words:  "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle Are they not in Your book?"  Here David acknowledges that God knows about our restless nights when we cannot sleep and He keeps our tears of sorrow in His bottle.  What a beautiful picture of a tender Father who cares for the sorrow of His children.  In fact, God even records them in His book.  Now that is intimate knowledge! 
     Within this past month, not only has our family lost a child but there have been many other losses within our church family and in the community at large.  Grief is something that comes to all and everyone deals with it on their own timetable.  So often, well meaning people try to hurry up the process by telling someone that it is better to move on now.  While we know that life does go on, we still have a longing for the one that brought us joy and is now departed.  It takes time for the wound to heal.  I liken it to having foot surgery and someone telling you to go out and take a hike the next day on your surgical foot.  We all know that would be too painful and probably do a lot of damage.  Instead, we need to allow the incision to heal properly.  We cannot rush our physical bodies, so why do some people think we should be able to heal emotional loss overnight?
     David experienced many losses in his life.  He lost the child that he and Bathsheba had together.  He was pursued by his son Absalom who was eventually put to death by David's own soldiers.  These losses were real, searing and brought many tears.  However, David knew that it was God who would catch his tears in a bottle.  God cares about the sorrow we have and walks with us through the hard places.  He does not disdain us or call us weak if we have not recovered within a certain time period.
     According to Gill's Exposition of the Bible, it was not unusual for mourners to collect their tears in a bottle and bury the bottle with the person who had died.  This was a means of showing the sorrow of those left behind.  God records those tears in His book and Gill goes on to write:
     "They are in his book of purposes; they are all appointed by him, their kind and nature, their measure and duration, their quality and quantity; what they shall be, and how long they shall last; and their end and use: and they are in his book of providence, and are all overruled and caused to work for their good; and they are in the book of his remembrance; they are taken notice of and numbered by him, and shall be finished; they shall not exceed their bounds. These tears will be turned into joy, and God will wipe them all away from the eyes of his people. "(   I love that description.  God knows and has appointed how many tears we shall cry and to what purpose all that has come to pass has in His providence.  In other words, nothing  is wasted during the grieving process.  God has a plan and a purpose for all that happens to us.    
     David recognized that God was trustworthy for earlier in Psalm 56, he wrote in verse 3-4:  "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid what can flesh do to me?"  Then, he concludes the Psalm in verse 13 by writing:  For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life."  Always, David ends with hope and even in the middle of his pain, he gives praise to God.
     For those of us going through the process at this time in our lives, we must be patient with ourselves.  God is overseeing even the tears that we cry and the loss we feel.  He cares and is recording it.  Better still, He is trustworthy and one day, as He promised, He will wipe away all our tears and death will be no more!  I find encouragement in that knowing that weeping only lasts for a night but "joy comes in the morning".  Selah!

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