Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 9th May 2021.
‘Tears, Grief and Joy’
Do you recall the last time you shed tears? All of us, at some time in our lives, have shed tears. Even Jesus himself shed tears. Most people know that the shortest verse in the King James Bible is “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). Mary, the sister of Lazarus, had just told Jesus that Lazarus, one of Jesus’s closest friends, had died. When Jesus saw her weeping, he wept too.
Grief at the death of someone close and dear to us, both at the time of death and at the funeral, is a common cause for weeping. We weep for ourselves and for others affected by our or their loss. I am reminded of the story I told in my Thought for the Day for 16 August last year (forgive me for repeating it) of a little girl who returned from her neighbour’s house, where her little friend had died. When her father asked her why she had been to her friend’s house next door, the little girl said, “To comfort her mother.” “What could you do to comfort her?”, asked the little girl’s father. “I climbed onto her lap and cried with her”, said the little girl. Often, sharing grief can help those afflicted by grief. Often, a hug, a squeeze of the hand, or a tear shared, can make a big difference.
We all handle grief differently. Some people can be openly distraught, and need comfort, help and support, whilst others may stoically bottle up their grief and hide their tears, and prefer to be alone in their grief. But in Psalm 56, a Psalm about fear and faith, the Psalmist reminds is that we are never alone in our grief; all our occasions for grief and tears are recorded by God: “You have … put my tears in your bottle.” (Psalm 56:8) He knows, he understands, and he is there to support us, to comfort us, if we allow him into our hearts.
During the current pandemic, there have been hundreds of thousands of people, in our own country and around the world, who have had cause to shed tears for the unexpected loss of a loved one from the virus. But there have also been other reasons for tears, for example, the loss of a job or a business. And aside from the pandemic, other reasons for tears can be, for example, the break up of a relationship, an argument with someone, causing an accident, or learning about a worrying medical diagnosis.
Tears can happen without a loss or fear of any kind. Sometimes we can be moved to tears by an emotional response to something we read or hear. I have to confess that there are some lines in one or two hymns that bring a tear to my eye, like the last two lines of ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross’:
“Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all”.
I was prompted to reflect on tears, grief and joy this week, because of a hymn and a psalm. Last Sunday, during our Evening Prayer on Zoom, the second hymn we listened to (and I could see that many were singing along to it at home) was ‘The Church’s one Foundation’. One of the verses ends with these words:
“And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song.”
The verse is all about the oppressed church and how, one day, those who suffer will have cause to celebrate freedom from oppression. One could also use the words as words of hope and encouragement that, whatever grief we suffer in our personal lives, it will not last forever. To use a hackneyed phrase, we need to believe that “There is light at the end of the tunnel”. If we are to cope with our grief and our fears, we have to believe that.
The psalm I referred to above is Psalm 30, which was the Psalm set for Morning Prayer on Wednesday. It contains a similar sentiment, encouraging us to have faith and hope that:
“Heaviness may endure for a night,
but joy comes in the morning”
When our personal situation gives us cause for tears, it can help if we can look for positives in our lives, to reflect on all the things for which we need to be thankful, to use those positives to counter our grief, and to sow seeds of hope that things will get better:
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed,
will come back with shouts of joy,
bearing their sheaves with them.
If anyone reading this reflection has reason to be tearful, I pray that God may bring you his comfort, his healing, his joy and his peace. Amen.