Joy in the Morning
“Weeping may endure for a night,” writes the Psalmist,“but joy cometh in the morning . . . “
Brand-new President Joe Biden quoted this in his recent inaugural address January 20; making the Bible’s promise, his promise.
“I promise you this,” said he: “as the Bible says, ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,’ we will get through this”––by which he meant the pandemic–– “together.” And Joseph Biden, having lost his first wife, and two of four children, has been no stranger to weeping.
Why do people weep, i.e. weep for emotional reasons? (And not just because they’ve been chopping onions or cleaning the counters with ammonia.) Why? Are there biochemical reasons? Physiological reasons? Psychological reasons? Spiritual reasons?
Is weeping a gift from God, or an evil?
In my home, i.e. my childhood home, that is, we were never allowed to cry; my siblings and I, that is. It was regarded as selfish, and manipulative––not to mention decidedly unacceptable for boys, of which there were three, four including my father––and quickly shut down. That being said, the few times I woke up in the middle of the night to hear my mother weeping (usually in the midst of an argument with my father) was truly heart-rending; and is even today something I will never forget, for as long as I live.
“I will not say; do not weep;” said J. R. R. Tolkien, in the voice of the wizard Gandalf, comforting the hobbits as Frodo prepared to leave middle Earth, “for not all tears are an evil.”
But most people, on the “question of weeping” the jury is still out.
Needless to say, the “why” of weeping is a question that has puzzled scientists for decades––if not centuries; and before them, artists and philosophers of every description. And thus far, no one has been able to come up with a convincing explanation. No one.
None of God’s other creatures weep, though it is clear that some animals experience a whole range of emotions, including fear, joy, happiness, shame, embarrassment, resentment, jealousy, rage, anger, and love. But they do not weep.
Only humans shed tears––or hire others to shed tears. Yes, once upon a time, people hired others, usually women, to weep on their behalf. This occurred throughout the Ancient Near East, including both Egypt and Mesopotamia; not to mention ancient China. Even the prophets called for weeping, i.e. professional weeping, to mark auspicious occasions, or convince people of the importance of their message:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts,” reads Jeremiah 9 (Jeremiah being known as the “weeping prophet”) “Consider and call for the mourning women, that they may come;
And send for the wailing women, that they may come!
“Let them make haste and take up a wailing for us; that our eyes may shed tears and our eyelids flow with water.”
The problem? Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians, and Solomon’s temple destroyed.
But no one seemed to be taking God––or the situation––very seriously.
“Is there no balm in Gilead?” laments Jeremiah, elsewhere . . .
“Is there no physician there?
Why, then, is there no healing
for the wound of my people?
Oh, that my head were a spring of water
and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night
for the slain of my people.”
As a matter of fact, the Bible is saturated with weeping.
The patriarchs wept, especially Jacob, and Esau; and Joseph, son of Jacob. In fact Joseph wept copiously, it would seem, on numerous occasions.
As you may remember, it was Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, who then told their father that he had been killed; at which point Jacob wept, as if there were no tomorrow. And I suspect he wept day and night on account of this; all the way from jail, to becoming Prime Minister to the Pharaoh of Egypt. And when his brothers turned up from Canaan on behalf of their father, poor and desperate and looking for emergency relief, Joseph wept so bitterly for love of them that he had to turn away, lest they behold his tears. As the interview continued, and his younger brother Benjamin appeared before him, Joseph quickly had to leave the room and find a private place:––such were his tears. In fact when Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, he wept so loudly––the text tell us––that all of the Egyptians in Pharaoh’s household heard him.
Though his brothers had betrayed him, Joseph fell upon their necks, and wept. He fell upon Benjamin, who was completely innocent of Joseph’s captivity, and wept.
And when Jacob himself came at last to Egypt, having heard that Joseph was alive, father and son fell upon each other and wept. “Joseph,” reads Genesis 46, “threw his arms around his father, and wept for a long time . . .”
King David wept. Jeremiah wept . . . And Jesus wept. Jesus probably wept as much––if not more––than Joseph did, or Jeremiah did. He wept with profound compassion whenever he chanced upon the grieving and the disenfranchised . . . He wept––we are told––as he prayed,
and sought the counsel of God the Father, even sweating, as it were, Luke tells us, “great drops of blood” in the midst of his tearful anguish. He wept over Jerusalem, even Jerusalem, heartbroken that countless of his kinsfolk would not be gathered unto God, or seek his face.
But I submit to you, if you will, that weeping is a gift. Why? Because it’s so very honest, and real, and brings healing; for God has no quarter with the “pretentious,” i.e. those who pretend:––who pretend, that is, that they are strong, when they are not; who pretend that “all that they are,” and “all that they have” is self-made or self-acquired; who pretend they need nothing when they actually need everything, most especially God; who pretend that they are rich, and have acquired wealth––and do not need a thing––when, in truth, they are, as the Spirit of the Lord Jesus said to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3––“wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”
According to Charles Darwin, “emotional crying” has no purpose whatsoever. But he was wrong. Weeping is a gift, because weeping cleanses––(if given by Spirit that is . . . )
It can wash away the collected detritus of both pretention, and pride. It’s like changing clothes.
You take off your dirty old clothes; you are washed; and then you put on, new clothes. It’s like a “baptism for the eyes,” which then goes on to ripple out over one’s whole spirit, with cleansing power to refresh, and renew, a broken heart; to heal, and to reorder. For in weeping, at last––at long last!!––you are willing to say: “I need.”
The wretchedly pitiful Laodecians––having wept for their blindness, and need––are counseled by the Spirit of Christ, and I quote, to buy from Me gold, refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
“The tears of Joseph,” writes Rabbi Abraham Gordimer, “belonged to an otherwise unrevealed and higher order of which he was a part; and which he discerned; and by which he was so moved.”
That higher order? Walking with God in authenticity. Tears not only lubricate the eyes; they lubricate the heart. Moreover, when tears are holy, and not bitter, they bring profound rest when they are done. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” said the Lord Jesus. ‘Come to me’––in effect––‘all you who have been weeping.’ “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
And as for the Jesus’ own tears; well, they healed an entire world.
The 15th century Archbishop of York, once asked the famous if controversial English mystic Margery Kempe, ––born 1373––why she wept so much, and so openly. Margery, it is said, lived “her life of devotion, prayer, and tears” not in the seclusion of a convent, but in public,
i.e. out among ordinary, unenclosed folk, and was often accused of being mad, i.e. in less-than-perfect mental health. “Sir, you shall wish some day,” replied she to the Bishop, “that you had wept as sorely as I.”
Moreover, though weeping may endure for a night––perhaps for many nights––the gift of God for the people of God is––when morning comes at last––joy !!!. . . to think that heartfelt “tears of the Spirit” are never shed in vain. They bring healing, and clarity.
When the Prodigal Son in Jesus’ magnificent parable at last returned home, having shed many tears, many bitter tears, his father greeted him, ironically, with many more . . .But the tears of his father were anything but bitter. They were tears of joy, profound joy, to think that “what was dead was alive again; and what was lost had now been found.” He killed the fatted calf, and held a great feast––a celebration!––to honour the homecoming of his son.
The only one not to have shed tears, it would seem, was the Prodigal Son’s older brother; the “good” brother, so to speak, who was “righteous altogether.”
“Look, Dad!,” said he.
“All these years I’ve been slaving for you––and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friend. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
“‘My son,’ replies the father, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
And why was the dead made alive, and the lost found? Because the Father was waiting. And because, among other things, the Prodigal Son and whoever Jesus’ crafted him to represent, was willing to shed a few tears; to be washed by them; and be made whole by them; and I daresay believe, that joy would come again, in the morning.
And because of God’s faithfulness and abiding love, joy will come again. Count on it, in Jesus’ name.
Shed a few tears lately? Me too. I’ve been shedding tears for a couple of years now. Don’t be afraid, and don’t be ashamed. After all, people often cry for loss, and for love. And without love, no one would cry. Let your tears be holy. And rise up again, determined to love and serve the Lord. For joy cometh in the morning; the morning of God’s love, and life. The morning of new hope.