It's Okay To Cry

“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

For the past few weeks, tears have come to me easily and often. Sometimes I cry over little frustrations; at other times, really big things evoke bitter weeping.

I’m not the only one, of course. The whole world seems to be groaning in sorrow these days. We have plenty of reasons to be sad, or angry, or anxious, or all of these at once.

Until a few days ago, I was berating myself for this emotional fragility and begging God to deliver me from it. When friends ask me how I am doing, I tell them frankly that I’m sad and anxious, and ask for their prayers.

Then, last week, a friend with whom I had shared this struggle said to me, “Do you know what I’ve learned about my anxiety? Instead of scolding myself for being anxious, as I used to, I now see my anxiety as an indicator of my emotional state. I accept it as a barometer of my mental and spiritual condition, and I take action. I try to remember Scriptures that address the problem of fear, and I call a few friends to pray for me. I still have anxiety, but I’m now dealing with it in a healthier way.”

It has occurred to me that I could see my emotional fragility similarly, as an expression of my heart, and simply offer it to God in prayer, for him to apply his healing balm in his own time and manner.

In other words, it’s okay to cry. God sees our tears and hears our cries of sorrow, and he accepts us as we are.

A conversation with a young relative the other day provided another very illuminating perspective on the larger problem of how to look at and deal with weakness of any kind. She said:

“The weakness of which Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 12:9 is not limited to physical incapacity, but includes emotional and spiritual weaknesses also. Rather than bemoaning the presence of these in my life, I have begun to celebrate them as opportunities for God to manifest his power in my life.”

I told her that I was thinking of writing a little article called, “It’s Okay to Cry.”

“I think many people need to hear those words,” she responded.

That reminded me of something that had happened a few days before. During a Zoom reunion with a group of former members of the Chinese Christian Fellowship at UVA, I had shared how the conflicts in our society were affecting family relationships as well, and how distressing this was to me.

The next day, I received an email from one of the people who participated in that call. She wrote: “Thank you so much for sharing your sadness over conflict within the family. I’ve been involved in terrible family conflict for several years now. Can you give me any wise advice?”

Like most folks, I’ve had plenty of experience with family conflict over the past few decades.

Of course, like “weakness,” “conflict” can refer to all sorts of unhappy situations, including lack of intimacy, unmet expectations, and misunderstanding, as well as disagreement, unkind words, and estrangement.

As I try to collect my thoughts on what God may have taught me about how to access his reconciling power in these sad situations, I think I may just start by telling this lonely person, who is obviously grieving the lack of harmony in her family, that it’s okay to cry.

David, the “sweet singer of Israel,” cried a lot (See, for example, Psalm 6:6). Jesus did, too, at the tomb of Lazarus and in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 11:35; Hebrews 5:7). Indeed, he was called “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” by the prophet (Isaiah 53:3).

He knows. He cares. He is our Great High Priest in heaven, who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).

He takes our prayers, mingles them with his intercessions for us (Romans 8:34), and presents them to the Father, who will one day “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes” (Revelation 21:4).

Thus, Paul could describe himself as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).