I’m a crier. After a long day, seeing something sad on the news, or even just watching my son earnestly try to befriend another child, can cause the tears to flow. I even cry during nature documentaries. (It’s the music!) But I don’t usually feel comfortable crying in front of others, and I’ve often noticed friends apologize when they tear up too.
Why are we ashamed of crying? How should we, as Christians, respond to it? When should we cry? And what does God say about our tears?
Tears Reveal Weakness
In our Western culture, we often consider crying embarrassing and something to be avoided. “Big girls don’t cry,” many of us were told. I grew up feeling ashamed of my tears and wondering what was wrong with me. I worried others would think I was weak and inadequate.
Often our problem with crying is that it exposes us, revealing to another our innermost feelings. It forces us to be vulnerable and honest with someone, and requires humility as we admit that we are, in fact, weak and inadequate.
How wonderful (and counterintuitive) that Christ’s strength could be displayed through the weakness of our tears.
But, as Christians, we don’t need to find our identity in having it all together or proving our lives are going great. The gospel has freed us from this. Our worth and righteousness has been perfected in Christ, who promises to use us in our weakness. Our very salvation depends on confessing our weakness and helplessness, so we may receive forgiveness and salvation.
Tears might expose our weakness. But admitting weakness is exactly what we should be doing. Paul says we can even boast in our weakness “so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us]” (2 Cor. 12:9). How wonderful (and counterintuitive) that Christ’s strength could be displayed through the weakness of our tears.
Tears Acknowledge Brokenness
Perhaps another reason our culture is so uncomfortable with crying is that it points to the brokenness of the world. People often like to believe that life is good, that there’s no need to cry. Social media features mantras and memes that tell us to always look on the bright side.
But the truth is, relationships break down and people become sick, get hurt, even die. We suffer disappointment, rejection, and loss in all kinds of ways. Of course there will be tears.
As God’s children, we don’t need to be afraid to admit that this world is full of suffering and sadness, since it doesn’t threaten our purpose or value. We can stare brokenness in the face and weep, knowing that redemption and restoration will come. When discussing the death of Christians, Paul assures us that “[we] do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again” (1 Thess. 4:13–14).
Unlike those who don’t know Christ, we have real hope because of the resurrection. We don’t have to pretend life is always great, because we know that eventually it will be. The Lord has promised that, one day, he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Rev. 21:4–5).
Tears Model Christ
Jesus certainly cried. It wasn’t because he was sinfully weak, but because he was human. His tears are a profound example to us. Approaching Jerusalem on a donkey, he wept over the city, at the blindness of the people’s rejection of him as Messiah (Luke 19). How often do we weep over the lost, remembering the eternity they face without Jesus?
Most famously, Jesus sobbed at the tomb of Lazarus—a powerful reminder that death is not the way it was meant to be. We aren’t supposed to gloss over death, avoid the topic, or pretend it’s natural and benign. Death is an enemy that Jesus came to defeat. He wept over death and so should we.
Weep over Sin
It’s also appropriate, at times, to weep over our sin. After all, it was our sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. The Bible records countless instances in which God’s people wept over their sin. After David sinned, he wrote, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit” (Ps. 51:17). After Peter denied knowing Jesus, he “wept bitterly” when he realized what he’d done (Matt. 26:75).
Our sin should grieve us. It separates us from God and leads to death. But praise God that we don’t have to weep forever, since “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). Hallelujah!
Crying in Community
It’s good to cry sometimes. It’s even good to cry in church—as we worship alongside our brothers and sisters and allow the truth of Scripture to penetrate our hearts and emotions.
I remember barely making it to church two weeks after my dad died. As soon as the first song began, the tears poured. A friend in the row in front simply turned around, wrapped her arms around me, and wept with me. Someone else offered to find a quiet space to talk, and another said she’d watch my kids. No one overreacted to my tears or appeared uncomfortable. My friend listened intently and didn’t rush to “fix” my tears.
Most importantly, these friends asked to pray for me. When I was utterly unable to lift my head, they interceded for me. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” More than our sympathy or listening ear, we can come with those who weep into the throne room of God, our Great Comforter, who is able to do more than we could ask or imagine.
When we cry, we can also comfort one another other with the certain hope we have in him, knowing that, one day, he will turn all our weeping into songs of joy.