Editor’s Note: this piece was originally written by Fr. Isaac in 2014 for The Epistle, our in-parish newsletter.
“Thou tellest my wanderings; put my tears into thy bottle: are not these things noted in thy book?” -Psalm 56:8
One of my favorite preachers is fond of saying that when you talk to any ten people, seven of them will probably have a broken heart. As a priest, I can attest that his estimate is pretty accurate. In my two-or-so years of ordained ministry, I have visited folks on their deathbeds, sat with folks on suicide watch, talked more folks than I care to count through the pain and aftershocks of divorce, prayed with scores of people battling with all kinds of illness, dealt with prodigal children’s heartbroken parents, comforted those left behind after death, and in general been there through heartache, hurt, and heaviness, both old and new. Such is the calling to the care of souls.
Life is hard, and in our fallen world pain is a major part of the human experience. Sometimes well-meaning fellow Christians make us feel like we have to hide our pain because it’s somehow “ungodly” to be anything but bright and happy. But God doesn’t call us to put on a mask in His presence. He knows our pain and He promises to go through it with us. The prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would be a “Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief.” Jesus did not only come to “bind up the brokenhearted” but to be brokenhearted Himself. In Christ, God not only sympathizes with our heartbreak, but empathizes with it as well, having gone through it in the flesh.
The Scripture tells us to “put on the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” This doesn’t mean that if we turn on K-Love, sing some hymns, or chant some psalms that our grief will suddenly disappear (though that does sometimes happen). But it does mean that we should come into God’s presence when we are in pain. We should bring our hurts before our Heavenly Father, just like a child would. If you need an ear or if you need prayer, we’re here for you and I promise we won’t tell you to “just buck up.” But please, come be with the Lord and His people. God has told us that He collects our tears, and I guarantee that He remembers you in your pain. Each tear is precious to Him, and we have His promise that He will one day set it to rights, when His Son puts all enemies under His feet and reigns forever and ever, world without end. Amen.