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The Chemistry of Tears

Greetings all,

I pray this message finds you well and blessed. Some of you I see on a regular basis and I am so thankful for that. For others of you, it has been a while, so for you that I miss, please know that you are missed. I continue to pray for you all daily.

We have just two more weeks in the book The Chemistry of the Blood by M.R. DeHaan. God did create something special when he created us, something more intricate than most of us realize. The insights available to us from Dr. DeHaan’s medical background, coupled with his spiritual wisdom, give us a sense of the incredible detail that is involved in our bodies physically, yet also spiritually. Today we will look at the chemistry of tears.

For many of us this is not necessarily a pleasant topic. Sure there are tears of joy, but most of our individual experiences with tears involve tears of pain or tears of sorrow.

Each one of us is very familiar with the tears in our lives. In fact, we could say that the history of our lives are written with our tears. When we talk about tears, I believe that each one of us can relate to this intensely human phenomenon.

The shedding of tears is a peculiarly unique human method of expressing our emotions, such as sorrow, grief, pain, despair, and disappointment. Mankind is the only created being who can laugh. Man, too, is the only one who can shed tears in the sense of expressing emotion. Other animals have tear glands and ducts but they are not used to give expression to emotion. Their only function is that of lubricating the eyeball.

The Bible is a book that has a great deal to say about the matter of tears. In this book we see infants weeping, mothers weeping, strong men weeping, kings weeping, and even the tears of the Savior are mentioned on various occasions. The first time that tears are mentioned in the Bible is 2 Kings 20:2-5. Here the Lord has just told king Hezekiah, in words spoken by the prophet Isaiah, to put his house in order, because he is going to die. 2 Kings 20:2-5,

“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, ‘Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.”’

The Lord heals Hezekiah and adds fifteen years to his life. In fact, I could say this as testimony, the words that he tells Isaiah to speak to Hezekiah are words that God would have each of us to hear, “I have heard your prayer(s) and seen your tears.”

There is not a person reading this who has not shed tears. My daughter Gretchen, as a child and a teenager, could actually squirt tears from her eyes as she cried.

The last mention of tears in the Bible is Revelation 21:4,

“He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain …”

God is the great tear drier of mankind. He dried the tears of a king in Israel’s day when he cried and he will wipe away our tears at the END of TIME when he wipes away tears once and for all. Between these two verses we have the record of the living God, like a tender Father wiping away the tears of his erring children. There is not one among us who does need this drying of tears or that does not desire this drying of tears.

We usually think of tears as a physical reaction but in reality Dr. DeHaan (and I agree) believes these tears and the glands that secrete them are organs of the soul rather than of the body. Tears have far more to do with the soul of a person than with the body. More tears are shed from the pain that cuts to our soul than the pain that affects our body.

My experience as a pastor bears this out. I see many more tears resulting from emotional pain than I do from physical pain.

In fact, as I think back personally in my life, my emotional pain has been much more tear inducing than physical pain. Even the pain from my head-on car accident did not cause me to cry. And that head-on collision hurt. I think most of us can agree with this. More tears flow from our emotional pain, our soul pain, than from our physical pain. The hottest tears are not those which come as the mother in her birth pangs gives life to her baby but rather when her heart is broken by the son or daughter addicted to meth or heroin, which is what I see regularly at Opportunity House.

Having said all of this about tears, let me ask this: What is tear?

Different types of people will give you different answers. A chemist will tell you that a tear is a solution of sodium chloride and calcium along with some other chemicals in an aqueous solution. Physiologists will tell you that a tear is the lubricating fluid of the eyeball, secreted by the lacrimal glands and poured over the eyes to keep them from becoming dry. Those less emotional people would tend to agree that tears are a sign of human weakness and cowardice. Those who are more of a hedonist background (where I was when I was a young adult), would say that tears are useless and that we should eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die and there will always be plenty of time to weep. Some would say that tears are “all in our head” and only a figment of our imagination, and that big boys and girls don't cry.

DeHaan has his own definition, one that I like, because all of these previous definitions do not contemplate the spiritual aspect of our existence. A tear is the distillation of the soul. It is the deepest longing of the human heart in a chemical solution. It is pure, filtered, distilled, until it is a concentrated extract; the final pure form of longing or desire that is in a human’s heart, filtered through the sieve of trial and testing. True tears are not camouflage that mask our true feelings but in reality are the picture of an individual’s soul on the canvas of their emotions.

Now there are different types of tears, but rather than follow that trail, I would rather for us to zero in on what does God use our tears for? What’s the purpose of our tears? Let’s go back to 2 Kings 20:5,

“I have heard your prayer and seen your tears.”

God hears our prayers, we know this, but God also sees our tears. All of them. God keeps a record of them, all of them. King David implies this record keeping by God in Psalm 56. David is at a low point in his life when he writes Psalm 56. He is a prisoner of the Philistines, a prisoner of war in the city of Gath. He is in despair as he writes this psalm. Psalm 56:8-11,

"Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll--are they not in your record? Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord--whose word I praise--in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Let’s focus on verse 8 here: Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll--are they not in your record?

If there are records in heaven where our sins are blotted out from, records of our good deeds for the attainment of crowns on judgment day to lay at Christ’s feet; is it not easy to see that there is a record of our tears as well?

Well, I find this inspiring. More so than that, I find it comforting. God cares enough about each of us to even record our tears, in essence a list of our sufferings. One translation has it that David said “You have put my tears in your bottle”. In David’s time if you put liquid in anything to store you would use either a bottle or a jar. The added implication is that God is keeping our tears (or the record of our tears) for a long time, very likely for eternity. Why?

I have a thought here, so please hear me out. If I had had no tears in my life, I may not have realized my need for Christ. In addition to this, whenever I had tears in my life, I was drawn closer to the Lord. I grew spiritually after all my personal experiences with tears. As I grew spiritually, I became closer and closer to God. I became more and more aware of his Holy Spirit and the blessings from having a relationship with his Spirit.

I ask each of you to think back in your lives, and see if what I said about the tears in my life match the spiritual growth and closeness with God and his Spirit in your life. I would think that they do.

These tears are important moments in our lives, not just for the pain and loss, but even more importantly, for our spiritual growth and development. These are the moments when we were closest to God, and through our sufferings, we were closest to Christ. In fact, our sufferings are shared with Christ. The Bible tells us this in Isaiah 53:4,

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows”

This would mean that the moments in our lives when we shed tears are the moments in our lives when we are closest to Jesus on this earth. No wonder that God would want these moments remembered.

Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.


Thad Brown

Opportunity House

and Harmony UMC

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