In the movie, A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks portrays Jimmy Dugan, a manager of an all-girls baseball team. In perhaps the most memorable scene of the movie, Dugan criticizes one of the players for crying and exclaims, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
I don’t coach an all-girls baseball team, but as a counseling elder, I do see a lot of tears (from both men and women). It isn’t uncommon for people to apologize for crying during a meeting. Why do you think this is the case? While it could be for a variety of reasons, two are especially prevalent. First, we don’t live in a world that understands or welcomes grief.
Cultural messages tell us toughness equals maturity. If it’s true that crying is a sign of weakness, and weakness a sign of immaturity, then grief should be suppressed or avoided. Apologizing, therefore, would be a rational response to the relational annoyance created by our tears.
Second, some people apologize for crying because they have been previously mistreated in their grief. Their expressions of sadness have been met with ridicule, insensitivity, or mockery. Instead of experiencing empathy and compassion, they have been ignored, looked down on, or even shamed. The church desperately needs a healthy understanding of the importance of grief.
The Gift of Tears
Grief is God’s gift to us when we’re sad. Grief isn’t just something we feel—it’s something we do. Healthy grieving provides our body and soul an avenue of release when we’re burdened, overwhelmed, and in despair. As painful as the grieving process can be, suppressed grief can cause even more pain. I’ve often heard people say they feel better after “having a good cry.” Many of us have seen the destruction of pent-up, unaddressed anger when it finally escapes. Grief is no different. Suppressing grief doesn’t solve the problem; it creates a greater one.Jesus’s tears teach us an important lesson—grief is not a weakness or an obstacle to overcome. It’s a gift to embrace. Click To Tweet
Looking to Jesus helps us understand healthy grieving. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). He lamented over the state of Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37–39). He was a man of sorrows (Isa. 53:3). And these are just the instances we have recorded. Jesus’s tears teach us an important lesson—grief is not a weakness or an obstacle to overcome. It’s a gift to embrace.
What’s Obvious Isn’t Always Easy
There are a few verses in the Bible that seem unnecessary at first glance. For instance, Romans 12:15 reads, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Why do we need a command to do what seems natural? Maybe because it’s not always in our nature.
While it makes rational sense that we should celebrate someone’s happiness and grieve their pain, our ability to lovingly emote is severely hampered by our own weakness and sin. It’s often easy to respond to someone’s grief with rejoicing. Hatred says, “They got what they deserved.” Likewise, it can be easy to respond to someone’s joy with grief. Envy says, “I deserve what they got.”
Our maturity in Christ has a direct impact on our emotional responses. Instead of hearing others apologize when they cry in our presence, perhaps they should hear us apologize for not weeping with them. People may stop apologizing for their tears if we responded to their tears with Christlike compassion and empathy. This should be part of our growth in Christ—as we become like him, we will weep like he weeps.
Becoming Like Our High Priest
We need to learn from Jesus to grieve well, and we need to learn from Jesus how to help others grieve well. Jesus is interceding for us right now as our high priest. This is good news! He is perfectly able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). Hebrews tells us that he always lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25). Allow the absolute nature of the word “always” to sink in.
When you’re overcome with sadness, Jesus is interceding for you. When you’re ravaged by disease, Jesus is interceding for you. When you’re crippled by anxiety, Jesus is interceding for you. When your marriage is crumbling, Jesus is interceding for you. When a friend betrays you, Jesus is interceding for you. When your faith feels weak, Jesus is interceding for you.The church should be the safest place to cry because the presence of God is the safest place to grieve. Click To Tweet
Because he sympathizes with your weaknesses, you have no need to apologize for your tears. On the contrary, Jesus welcomes your tears, and he delights to care for you. He invites you to draw near in your time of need (Heb. 4:16). When God feels far from you, the high priesthood of Jesus guarantees he’s still ministering to you at that very moment.
Jesus’s priestly ministry informs our priestly ministry. The New Testament describes Christians as priests (1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6). Like our high priest, we have the dual privilege of drawing near to God and ministering to the needs of others.
Pastors and ministry leaders should always have a box of tissues in their offices. Offer them to those who cry and be patient as they grieve. When someone apologizes for crying, thank them for their vulnerability and the opportunity to comfort them in their affliction (2 Cor. 1:4). The church should be the safest place to cry because the presence of God is the safest place to grieve. May God make it so among his people.