Sometimes marriage is hard and you just need to cry. Early on in my marriage when my husband and I took each other for granted, misunderstood one another, or were even adversarial in certain stages of our relationship, I held my pain and emotions inside. After all, I had a job to go to, or kids to make lunch for, or a parent-teacher meeting to attend. There were places to go and people to see. My tears didn’t fit in my schedule.
In some cases, I simply didn’t want to feel the pain that allowing myself to cry would surely expose. The pretense of numbness felt like a better option.
There were other times when there was no stopping the floodgates. A quick step into the other room as big salty drops leaked out, try as I might to contain them. Still, I often tried to pull myself together quickly. There weren’t very many moments when I was alone and could allow myself to cry, but these stolen moments let out just enough of my angst to ease the pressure in my wounded heart.
Over the years, I have learned to make room for tears. I’ve also learned that there are two kinds of emotional releases:
The kind that involve HEALING TEARS, and the kind that indulge HARMFUL TEARS.
Jesus is a good example to us of healing tears—the kind that move us forward and draw us closer to God. Nobody enjoys feeling the pain of whatever is causing us emotional suffering, but it’s necessary in order to heal and find clarity. On the night before He was crucified on the cross, Jesus took His closest friends to a garden, made His way a little way off from them, and proceeded to agonize with tears as He sweat great drops of blood.
He poured His heart out to God the Father with deep emotion! Earlier in His ministry, when He learned of the death of His dear friend, Lazarus, He wept. Jesus was never afraid to express His emotions or allow Himself to cry. Each time, Jesus was then able to move toward action with confidence, peace, and authority. He raised Lazarus from the dead and acquiesced to His own providential death. Jesus watered the seeds of these miracles with His tears. It’s a reminder to me to allow my tears to usher me into prayer and to allow them their place, but then to get on with my life, fulfilling the good works that God has prepared for me to do instead of allowing my sadness to cripple me.
Indulging in harmful tears is much easier to do, but that can drive a wedge between you and your spouse. When I’m struggling in my marriage, it’s easy to wallow. There’s a fine line when I allow myself to feel sad or hurt. I don't want to cross over to a pity party. I take the time to cry for the purpose of cleansing and emotional release, not as manipulation or as a gateway to despair. My tears should be clarifying, convicting, and in the end, comforting. I tell myself that I can be sad, but that I’m not meant to stay there. I want these moments to bring me God’s peace. My tears are an offering to the Lord. A wordless prayer, themselves. I let them have their moment, not my day.
When David was on the run from King Saul, fleeing for his very life, he cried out to God. He offers us one of the most precious verses in the Bible regarding God’s actions when we cry:
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8, NLT)
David drew near to God in His suffering, knowing that God cared so intimately for him that He captured every tear and took note of every drop. The same is true for me and you when there’s no holding back.
Not long ago, I joined a friend at the movie theater to watch the film adaptation of William Paul Young’s The Shack. The lead character, Mack is grappling with the death of his young daughter. The most powerful moment of the film for me is when the character depicting Jesus quickly and carefully reaches out to collect a tear of off Mack’s cheek. I had never before visualized what it looked like to know that Jesus was gathering all my tears as something precious to Himself. The very thought takes my tearful spirit from dejected to delighted!
Marriage depicts the love relationship that God designed for us but when that bond becomes a source of sadness, it’s important to know that God has not given up on our relationship and we can’t either. He wants our hearts to be filled with joy and our relationship to be strengthened. Don’t allow your tears to sweep you into a tidal wave of hopelessness or anger. Allow your tears to be cleansing, washing away bitterness, worry, and fear. Let God take your tears and then take your hand, leading you out of the gloomy shadows. When I allow myself to cry with the right mindset, God ushers me toward forgiveness, grace, and the ability to offer unconditional love to my husband. He also reveals to me my own wrongdoing or attitudes and gives me the humility to take ownership for the sadness I have brought upon myself.
I’m wondering if you have been holding your emotions in? Or perhaps you are allowing your tearful moments to cause more harm than good? Maybe your marriage has been in a rough patch for a while and you are simply trying to get through the day? The enemy enjoys whispering words of brokenness to us in our fragile state. Don’t listen. Tune in to the life giving words of Jesus who loves you and will guide you toward a stronger relationship with your spouse. It’s not easy to open the floodgates but I encourage you to take the time to feel what you feel. Have a good cry. But do so in a way that brings you closer to God and closer to your spouse.