I. THE MEANING OF TEARS
At times, extreme joy can bring about tears. However, in general, tears result from excessive sorrow, when too much psychological pressure is applied to our being. In other words, when sorrow and depression within us become unbearable and the heart becomes overburdened and uncontrollable, tears flow out. Yet the amazing thing is that when our tears flow out, all the heavy burdens within suddenly become light. Originally everything was tense, but now things become relaxed. It seems that something has come out of us through the tears. Originally there were many things within; now there are fewer things within. Formerly it seemed as if we were inflated with air; now much of the air has been let out. Therefore, tears are very meaningful. They discharge whatever is in the heart. In other words, tears are the outlet of the heart. Now let us consider what the Bible has to say about this.
Job 16:20 says, "My friends scorn me:/but mine eye poureth out tears unto God." Job said this after he was stricken by Satan and ridiculed by his three friends. Brothers, have you experienced pouring out tears unto God while being ridiculed and oppressed by men? How many times have you been opposed by men? Have you ever suffered loss and borne a false charge? When you encountered these kinds of things, have you ever wept like Job did? Of course, weeping before men is a manifestation of your weakness, but a person ought to shed tears unto God. I have often said that whoever has shed tears before God is blessed. On the other hand, whoever has never shed tears before God does not know the meaning of fellowship. Neither does he know about being close to God or casting his burden on the Lord. A friend of mine once told me something regarding tears. He said, "When all your ways are blocked, when you are opposed in every place, when everyone says you are wrong, and when the environment vexes you, drop a few tears before God. This is your only way out. Only this will enable you to solve the problem." This statement is true. Whoever has passed through the same experience would say the same thing. These are unavoidable experiences, and every believer must pass through them. If you want to serve God faithfully and live in a godly way, things of this kind will surely happen to you, and tears will surely flow. There has never been a faithful one who has not shed tears. Brothers and sisters, how about you? If you have ever brought your problems or joys to God, I advise you to bring your tears to Him as well.
Psalm 6:6 says, "I cause my bed to swim all night long; / With my tears I dissolve my couch." At that time David was in the midst of adversity. Furthermore, his body was not strong. Therefore, he wept every night; his couch was wet, and his bed was made to swim. Let me say something that is not pleasing to the ears: whoever can only laugh but cannot weep, is a very shallow person. Whoever laughs all day long shows that within him he does not have much depth. Those who have never wept have never passed through God’s digging hands. Tears indicate that a person has something within him. They show others that there is God’s work within such a person. However, God does not treasure our tears that are shed in public, tears that others can see. He treasures the tears shed in secret, tears that are shed for Him. Proper and precious tears are tears "unto God," tears shed at night. We know that David was a person who knew how to cry very well. Psalms tells us that he wept many times. Whenever he sinned or encountered adversity, he would shed his tears before God. But Saul was not such a person. He could only become angry and vexed; he could not weep.
Tears are a sign of sadness. Sadness touches others’ feeling, whereas laughter cannot touch others very deeply. Laughter is something on the surface, whereas grief comes from within. Since grief comes from a person’s inner being, it must also enter into the inner being of others. All who have experience in human life acknowledge this. The shedding of tears is a sign of a broken heart. Therefore, before tears can flow from the eyes, they must first flow from the heart. It is meaningless to shed tears when the heart is not pained.
The reason David was led by God to such deep and full experiences was that he shed tears. The many tears that he shed reveal the many sufferings and adversities that he bore. Many lessons are learned from suffering. As Romans says, "Tribulation produces endurance" (5:3). Let us remember that David became David because of his tears. If there had been no tears to cultivate him, he could not have been any deeper than others were.
When the Israelites were carried away to a heathen land, the people ridiculed them, saying, "What do you have left? The temple of your God is ruined, and your nation has vanished. Where is your God? What has happened to you?" Under this kind of situation the sons of Korah wrote the psalm: "My tears have been my food/Day and night,/While they say to me all day long,/Where is your God?" (Psa. 42:3). At that time it was very painful for them. People were pricking them with sharp words that were hard to bear. They could not help but shed their tears unto God. Men like to prick those whom they hate. It is their joy to afflict them and cause them to suffer. In the same way, the enemy of the children of Israel came to prick them, scorn them, ridicule them, and cause them pain. At such a time, they could only shed tears. Even though that was the case, later on we shall see that God will take care of those tears.
Ecclesiastes 4:1 says, "So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter." Tears are shed when a person hears unpleasant words from others, when he encounters suffering and oppression that produce sorrow and anger, and when this sorrow and anger continue to press upon him until he can withstand them no more. As such times, the tears flow out.
Lamentations 1:2 says, "Bitterly she weeps in the night, / And her tears are on her cheeks./There is no one to comfort her/Among all her lovers;/All her friends have dealt treacherously with her;/They have become her enemies." Lamentations was written by Jeremiah. It speaks of the situation after the children of Israel were carried away into captivity. This verse shows us that the children of Israel wept because they were dealt with treacherously.
From all the foregoing verses, we can see that tears are shed through others’ oppression, treachery, ridicule, and other adverse situations. Therefore, the shedding of tears is an indication of pressure and pain. All these things must have happened to our Lord. Otherwise, why did He weep and shed tears? His shedding of tears tells us that He also suffered all these things. The shedding of tears is not something negative; rather, it is holy.
In this world a tearful face is better than a smiling face. It is fortunate that a few tears are shed to wash this adulterous and sinful world! If there were no tears, I am afraid that the world would be even more evil. It is fortunate that in this blind and crooked generation there are a few streams of warm tears; they tell us that men still have some feelings. If there were no such tears, I fear that the world would become like a deep pit; its darkness would be worse than hell. Today on this earth there are still many beautiful flowers. If there were no tears to cultivate them, they would all have withered. If it were not for the tears that maintain relationships between parents, husbands and wives, brothers, relatives, and friends, the world would immediately resemble the situation in the great tribulation. We know that Antichrist is coming. Fortunately, there are tears to hold him back. Otherwise, the pain would be even more severe, and sin would be even more rampant. Therefore, tears are the real meaning of human life. They show that a person still bears his human nature and still has the sense of sin. Wherever sin is, tears must also be present. Heart-breaking experiences, sorrowful events, and recollections of the past can all cause us to shed tears. The reason many people cannot shed tears is that they have forgotten their past history, they have left paradise and do not know where they are today. The same applies to man’s experience of God’s redemption; without the shedding of tears, man cannot return to the beginning. Anyone who has forgotten what he has passed through cannot shed tears. The shedding of tears is an indication that a person feels pain concerning his past.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 19: Notes on Scriptural Messages (3), Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)