The Gift of Shared Tears

Loneliness is a hard companion. Yes, I say companion, because although its literal meaning is that you are by yourself, unlike solitude – which we may long for and need at times, loneliness feels like an unwanted and burdensome companion. Its shadow-like presence goes wherever you are. In a room full of people or standing in line to pay for your groceries, you feel alone and devastated by it.

Sometimes it’s difficult to articulate to others why our sadness. We need people to be a safe place, where our words can land safely, quietly. A place absent of platitudes, and well-meaning but ill-fitting “let me fix it” type of comments. It’s hard because we really do want to fix things, don’t we? We want to fix them for others, and at times we desperately wish to fix our own broken hearts.

But not everything is fixable, and not everything that is can be mended right away. Sometimes it is meant to take time because in that space God is doing something in our lives. The hurt is being used for future fruit and today’s pain is an ingredient thereof.

There is that instance where someone will have the right word that speaks directly into our situation. Or we may have that timely word of encouragement that fits and helps someone discern and feel better. There are other occasions when we just want company in pain that is hard to articulate.

The Word says “Weep with those who weep”. This two-part verse also calls to “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15 ESV). Both statements call to partake in the situation of the other person. Which means we place ourselves over there, wherever they are. This paints a picture for me. Sitting where they are to experience what they are facing and partake with them of that joy or sorrow. Some time ago I got an unexpected front row seat that helped me understand one way to weep with those who weep.

For days I carried my heavy companion. Some dear friends kept coming to mind. Online connections, who though removed in terms of geography, were close regarding some of the things I was wrestling through. I felt awkward and even silly at the thought of reaching out. Finally, I worked up the courage. With a lump in my throat, teared-eyed I shared with words a piece of my heart, challenging to articulate, needing a home away from home to land.

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At the other end, my teary words were received in addition to compassion with vulnerable expressions of similar burdens these friends have experienced. They shared openly about their own struggles and cried as they dug deep into their own hurt, to bring it to me in words. It was a sacred gift that felt like a balm. I had shared pains that felt heavy, and they were met with tears that said, “I receive your heart. Please hold my heavy heart too”, and in doing so, conveyed you are not alone.

These women wept on the other end of the line. Real tears and words spoken in a broken voice. Thank you Lord I whispered, feeling accompanied. This was an unexpected picture of “week with those who weep.” By that I mean, I had not seen its effect in my own heart. I understood better the inkling I had had all week to reach out to them. It felt uncomfortable to reach out to strangers in the traditional sense of the word. Women who lived in different time zones. Our friendship had been cultivated entirely in the digital space using technology in the form of email, voxer, and social media.

We knew each other’s voices and writing. We’ve seen each other’s faces in photos. But we’ve never met up for coffee or worshiped together on Sunday. Yet, these were the vessels God used to minister to my soul. In their own way, each sat by my side and beheld what I was seeing, feeling its weight alongside with me.

They wept with me as they opened their own heart to share what made theirs feel heavy. It made all the difference. Through this experience, I learnt that a way to weep with someone is not to be afraid to invite them into what makes you cry. Although this experience happened a little while back, I carry the lesson close to my heart.

Some of the things I shared that day remain today, as not every hard thing is meant to have a resolution, immediate or sometimes ever. But the one thing that was most life-giving was to find myself among fellow sufferers. To be shown their own tender areas with the pain they carry and wrestle in prayer moved me profoundly and made me feel cared for enough to be trusted. Being sad together was a gift that made my own sadness less overwhelming. It’s not sexy. It’s not what the world calls efficient or smart management of one’s emotions. But then again, neither is the suggestion to weep with those who weep.

It brought me closer not only to them but especially to God. There is beauty and sweet company in crying together. It puts us in touch with our own humanity. Weeping with others means I allow myself to feel things I don’t want to feel, or which disrupt my otherwise very organized life. It’s a call to break with the broken. Which I am as well. I’m so grateful for these friends, for the courage God gave me to reach out finally, and for the chance to weep together. By sharing in their sorrow, I felt less alone in mine.