EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, is part of his ongoing call to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world.
NASHVILLE (BP) — Over the years, I have hosted many groups in Israel. Often, though not always, the groups I have led have been kind to purchase a gift to present to me near the end of the trip. It is certainly not obligatory, but a generous expression of appreciation. I have been given some beautiful olive wood carvings which I exhibit in my office to this day. I have received other items such as a wonderful, authentic widow’s mite coin.
One of the gifts that I received most recently was a lachrymatory or “tear bottle.” It is part of a 3,000-year-old tradition where mourners would actually catch tears in a bottle and seal them. Sometimes these tear bottles were placed in the grave of a loved one who passed on. It was a tribute to the family or person to show both love and devotion on the part of those who mourn.
I think this is a precious tradition. Scripture records numerous examples of people mourning one for another, including our Lord Himself. Our own experience reveals the deep friendship that comes when someone mourns with you over a loss in your life.
Psychological counselors distinguish between healthy versus unhealthy grief. Scripture encourages us to grieve, “not as those who have no hope,” but to grieve as those whose hope is firmly fixed in the second coming of Jesus. This is healthy grief.
Grief is real. As many of you know, my family is not a stranger to grief. Having lost a daughter, as well as other relatives, my family understands what it is to grieve at many levels. Someone once said that grief is like the waves on the seashore; it never stops. Gratefully it does decrease over time in both frequency and intensity, though it never completely ends.
I want to share a word of encouragement to you today that our Lord Himself knows our struggles and grieves with us. I love the words of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. In that precious passage, our Lord is described as “the God of all comfort.” Isn’t that a precious and accurate description of our Lord? He comforts us in our times of trouble.
Psalm 46:1 teaches us that our God is “always found in times of trouble.” I am certain that you join with me in desiring a God who is ever present to help in our times of need. We do not want a part-time God, or a God who takes vacations, or a God who sleeps. We want a God who is with us and available at all time. Thankfully He is!
In relation to the tear bottle, look closely at Psalm 56:8. There the Scripture says, “You Yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?” This is a precious reminder of God’s care and comfort. Just as ancient mourners would catch their tears in a literal bottle, our Lord knows every tear we cry. He is with us as we grieve at every moment.
I urge you to lean upon the Lord. While all human beings will disappoint at some point in time or in some way, our Lord is steadfast and ever present. He knows every emotion that we experience.
Do we not serve a great God? Praise His name!