How do we find the gospel glistening in a falling teardrop? Given that the word “gospel” comes from the Greek euaggelion, meaning “good news,” one may quite justifiably ask: “What’s the crying for if you’ve got the good news?” Doesn’t the gospel mean that when we accept Christ, we become “new creations,” experience “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” and “live happily ever after”? And indeed it does. But that didn’t stop Jesus from weeping (John 11:35). Remember?
Then there was Peter. Do you remember Peter on the day Jesus was preparing for His walk to Calvary’s hill? Jesus informed him and the other disciples that He was going where they could not yet go. “Why?” Peter demanded, before assuring Jesus he would die for Him. “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times,” Jesus told His pompous but well-meaning disciple (Matt. 26:34). And sure enough, Peter denied his Lord three times. Then the cock crowed. As Jesus turned and looked at Peter, the disciple had a sudden sense of his human limitations and of Jesus’ divine foreknowledge. According to Luke 22:62, Peter “went outside and wept bitterly.”
Here is Peter—the disciple’s disciple, brave, boisterous, and bombastic. In his own eyes, at least, he’s primus inter pares, first among equals. Here he is in the courtyard, safe from his Master’s loving but revealing glance. And he’s weeping like a baby.
Peter and Jesus wept for very different reasons, which simply shows that weeping may be motivated by more than one reason. So why might you, as a Christian, find yourself moved to tears? Do you see yourself in Peter’s sandals—overconfident one day, weeping the next? Or for you is there some other reason? Perhaps I might mention three—three sentiments that are thoroughly Christian that may move us to tears.
First, we hurt when we see or experience injustice. We properly associate Peter’s torrent of tears with his three denials, but the injustice meted out to his Master, Messiah, and Friend also took an emotional toll on this disciple. Despite his bluster, Peter proved to be more sensitive than we might have given him credit for being. Ellen White says that Peter’s heart “was wrung with sorrow as he heard the cruel taunts, and saw the abuse He was suffering.”1
It is never inappropriate to feel pain when we face personal injustice or persecution. But there is greater Christian nobility in suffering, as Peter did, at the pain of injustice committed against another.
You may mock, if you like, at Peter’s denial of his Savior. But remember that he himself came to know persecution intimately. Eventually Peter was crucified. Tradition records that, feeling unworthy to die as his Master had died, he demanded to be placed on the cross upside down.
And there is just as much good news for those who weep in despair over personal failure.
Adventists think of God’s remnant church as facing some future time of persecution for worshipping on God’s true Sabbath. But even today about 200 million Christians face persecution in some 60 countries because they refuse to deny the name and divinity of Jesus.2 As fellow Christians, we should not ignore the persecution, and often the martyrdom, of these believers.
On March 2, 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated.3 He was minister for minorities in the Pakistani government. His crime was twofold. He was a Christian in a Muslim land, and he opposed the Pakistani law permitting the death penalty for blasphemy against Islam. My heart was touched by a photograph of a Pakistani woman crying uncontrollably over the death of this modern-day Christian martyr. Perhaps she was a relative, a fellow Christian, or, as Martin Luther King once described himself, “a drum major for justice.”
Second, we cry when we suffer severe loss—the loss of a job, home, or marriage. Or we may lose a friend or relative through illness or death.
Peter had been ready to protect his Lord at the point of a sword. Jesus had forbidden him. Now he could see that he was losing his Master. Reality was setting in. “A tide of memories rushed over him. The Savior’s tender mercy, His kindness and long-suffering, His gentleness and patience toward His erring disciples—all was remembered.”4 Which of us has not known the bitterness of death, when both sad and happy memories bring tears to our eyes or our hearts? Peter’s grief was a profoundly complicated experience.
Third, we might experience pain as a result of our own failure, sin, or guilt. Born-again singer and songwriter Jason Crabb admits:
“Sometimes I fall down,
Stumble over my own disguise;
I try to look strong as the whole
world looks on,
But sometimes, alone, I cry.”5
Have you ever come face to face with the fact that your Christian life has not been sinless? Ever had to admit that what you thought was your strength was your weakness? Ever realized that you were trying to live a Christian life without prayer, Bible study, or witnessing? I think of myself and almost fear I might hear a cock crow outside.
But where is the gospel while we cry?
Actually, it’s right there. It’s been there all along. For those who weep for tribulation Jesus reassures: “In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Tribulation, it turns out, “worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Rom. 5:3, 4, KJV). And for those who struggle through distress, persecution, famine, hunger, and death Paul testifies that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
And there is just as much good news for those who weep in despair over personal failure. “Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Prov. 24:16). And “if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One”
(1 John 2:1).
And for all the saints seeking gospel amid the cares and concerns that Christians must daily confront, Peter supplies an answer carved from his belated but heartfelt humility. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,” he writes, “that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6, 7).
So how do we find the gospel glistening in a falling teardrop? We do it by remembering that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). “A heartache here is but a stepping stone” because “this troubled world is not my final home.”6 One day, and soon, “God will wipe every tear from [our] eyes” (Revelation 7:17).
Yes, “sometimes alone I cry.” For my guilt and sin, for my trials and loss, and the pain of another’s injustice. But I cry not as those who have no hope. I cry with the blessed hope that when morning comes, God shall wipe away every tear from my eye.