“Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem…When I heard these things I sat down and wept.” (Nehemiah 1:2,4)
“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
It’s been a difficult week. Rebuilding and recovering after the pandemic that has left everyone’s energy depleted. Two years since both my parents died (within 6 weeks of one another) and ten months since my grandson died. Now I’m sitting preparing a funeral for a church family I have known for 40 years. I’m not unique in these strains and losses. Nor am I seeking sympathy. Rather, I’m marvelling at God’s timing as my Quiet Time readings have brought me to Nehemiah and his response to distress. How do we react to bad news, to loss, to pain, to setbacks, to sustained pressures? We are, after all, people of faith. So, “we do not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4). We know that our God can turn all things to the good and that we are more than conquerors, inseparable from Him (Romans 8). We know that we are not exempt from pain but that it has a purpose, and that we are in the hands of “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1). We know that “weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30). We know that “we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3). We know that our every tear is recorded (Psalm 56). We know there will come a day when every tear will be wiped away by God Himself (Revelation 7,21).
But what the head knows, the heart can struggle to hold.
Faith can feel diluted when grief and pain and loss are so overwhelming. It does not mean we have lost faith or have, somehow, failed. Faith is simply hard to see through tear-filled eyes and hard to feel with a broken heart.
When Nehemiah hears firsthand about the disgrace and disaster afflicting the remnant of his people in Jerusalem, his first response is brokenness: he just sits and weeps. There is no shame in a strong person weeping. Man of faith though he is, he is still emotionally crippled by the news he receives. With time and prayer, he begins to plan a positive response and finds the resolve and courage to implement it. But those days of weeping are important. They show his love, his concern, his humanity.
Even spiritual superheroes have moments when faith is hidden, and tears flow. Even Jesus wept. There will be days when we are still paralysed by grief and loss and distress. But it’s OK to weep. That surrender to weeping is normal and necessary. The tears dilute the pain rather than the faith. The tears water the slow regrowth of faith rather than wash it away. The tears rinse out the chaos of emotion and restore calm faith. The tears are our most eloquent path to the anchor of faith.
So, hang in there when bad news, loss, and pain come calling. Faith will prevail.