The other night a I cried until my eyes burned. The next day I had a cry hangover. I just can’t cry like I used to. Maybe because since having kids and since entering adulthood, (which happened pretty much simultaneously for me), I don’t cry much anymore. I often feel like who has the time? Crying is exhausting, and time consuming, and I just haven’t let myself carve out the time to be super emotional lately. So that is probably why it came on me seemingly out of nowhere. The flood gates opened and swept me (and poor unsuspecting Peter) away. As suddenly as it started it stopped. And I felt lighter, except for my eyelids. Those suckers were nearly swollen shut. Which was probably good because it meant I couldn’t get a good look at my raccoon eyes in the mirror.
I am glad God created crying. I am glad He gave us a release for our emotions, that literally empties us-at least for a moment- from some of the burden we feel.
God is the Wonderful Counselor. I can say to Him everything that I am feeling. And lately I do. “God, I don’t like this.” He doesn’t shy away from that. He welcomes my feelings. He comforts me when I am distraught. He is worthy of my trust and my praise, despite my situation, because of who He is. But that doesn’t mean I am not allowed to say “God, this sucks. This hurts. I don’t get this. I don’t want this." I used to think that pouring out negative emotions on God showed a lack of faith, a lack of trust in His plan, even rebellion. Now I understand that actually it is a deeper form of faith-to choose to trust God with my emotions, to not like what I have been dealt or to not understand why but to turn to Him instead of away. So that is what I am trying to do first. Before I dump on Peter, before I call my mom, before I stew in my head and have a pity party or let my emotions convince my mind of lies, I am trying to pour it out to God.
A wonderful and wise friend and I are doing a book study together. We read through part of 1 Samuel and she pointed out something glorious to me that I had not noticed before. I just can’t get it out of my head.
In 1 Samuel we meet Hannah. Hannah was infertile and deeply distraught. She went to the temple to pray.
“As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli (the priest) observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” (1 Samuel 1:12-18)
Hannah’s situation had not changed. She was,for all she knew, still unable to have children. But after she poured her heart out to God, she got up and left and “her face was no longer downcast”. I can almost see a picture of God putting his strong yet tender hand under Hannah’s chin and lifting her face up, so it was no longer downcast. That picture of God is a new one for me, but one I want to know more of. If Hannah had complained around the well about her plight I think her face would still be downcast. If she had cried on her husband Elkanah’s shoulder, her face may still have been downcast. If she had journaled all her thoughts on tear stained pages of her private diary her face may still have been downcast. I don’t know. Maybe she did do those things. Verse 7 says Hannah was distraught “year after year”. And in verse 8 we see that Elkanah tries to comfort Hannah and convince her to stop her weeping, but to no avail. Sister just had to cry…to God. It wasn’t until then that her deep sorrow was comforted.
What a Wonderful Counselor we have! He does not deny us our feelings, our grief, our anguish, our frustration, confusion or disappointment. In fact, he can sympathize with our suffering in every way. I am glad that Jesus cried, wept even. (John 11:35). I really am. It means He gets it. He knows how heavy a heart can be; it can’t help but break wide open, emptying evidence of its pain, shaking its being, flowing out and making eyelids as heavy as the heart. And it might be worth mentioning who Jesus poured his heart out to in his deepest moments of anguish and dread. He prayed to His Father asking God to take this cup from Him. “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples…” (Mark 14:35-37a) It kinda looks to me that Jesus resembled Hannah a little bit. He fell to the ground in honest emotion before God. He begged from God what He wanted, but submitted to God’s will. Then, afterwards He got up and went about doing what was next-returning to His disciples, to be arrested and taken to die. It might sound sadistic, but I love that prayer of Jesus. It is so real and I can relate. It gives me such comfort. Misery loves company and I would say I have the best of all in Jesus. He gets it. He gave me an example. He gave me a place to turn. He gives me compassion. And He has given me what I could never have on my own: victory. He not only suffered, but He won.
“ So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT).
He endured the same sufferings, not so He could lord it over us that He suffered but did not sin, but so He could empathize in our weakness, offer us compassion and offer us help. He suffered so we would know we are not suffering alone. So why suffer alone? Why not approach the throne of grace and mercy, compassion and help? Sometimes I think that act of faith is more difficult than stuffing it all inside or trying to solve it all myself. It can be easy to choose to get angry with God when we don’t get what we want or what we think we deserve. It is way too easy to confuse my emotions for reality. What can be hard is to choose to trust when things don’t make sense or when things just plain stink.
Some days my feeble voice is choked by sobs and I can see myself in that portrait of Hannah. Some days that is all I can muster. But I choose to cry at the feet of God. I choose to wrap my emotions in truth and beg for His grace. Some days that is my biggest leap of faith. “It doesn’t feel okay. But I know you are holding me. I don’t like this. But I trust this is best. I don’t know what is coming. But I know you.” Some days that is my most sacrificial act of worship. It isn’t pretty but it is real. And I don’t have to pretty myself up for God. He sees me, takes me, loves me just as I am. Which is awesome because I don’t know about you, but I have never looked pretty crying. When those tear ducts open it is like the first hour of the Perfect Storm. People just try to take cover, because tears and snot will fly unpredictably in any direction. I am glad Jesus is an expert at calming storms, even the storms that brew up in me.
And I can say from experience, when I pour my deepest feelings out to God I never feel empty for long. When I choose to trust Him despite what I feel and walk in faith farther than my eyes can see, I never feel betrayed. My God is so amazing. He fills me with peace I cannot explain and makes my face no longer downcast. Now, if only he would do something about the puffy raccoon eyes…