Daniela, our longtime yet still young friend from Bolivia, shared this image with us. It takes the Spanish word for crying, LLORA, and converts it to ORA, meaning to pray. It says,
“When you are sad, turn your tears to prayer!
The message is taken from the time when Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:38-39)
We’ve all experienced pain and suffering to some degree. Whether light or intense, and whether it is our own pain or the pain we feel for someone else, it always feels like a heavy burden. Have you ever been “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death?” Certainly, Jesus knows the depth of your pain and mine. We are not alone in our sorrow, not without hope. Though tears overcome us and we feel completely overwhelmed, we are not left to despair – if we turn our tears into prayer.
We see David, who God called “a man after my own heart,” doing this. David was relentlessly and persistently pursued by his enemies. They pressed down upon him from all directions, threatening to take his life. As we shared Psalm 63 with a dying friend, he agreed his life felt like that; the armies of cancerous cells were encamped all around, not only threatening but promising to take his life. Like David, we cry out, “How long O Lord? How long will you wait to vanquish my foes? How long until you redeem my sorrow? How long until you bring me home? And yet I will trust you. And yet I will still praise you, for you are the Lord my God, my refuge and my salvation.”
Tears flow and we think they fall needlessly and meaninglessly to the floor. But that’s not so. Our loving God who sees us where we are, catches each one of our tears.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8
God doesn’t waste pain. It becomes a megaphone that demands our attention and he uses it to draw us closer to him. He takes note of not only some, but all your tears. He records them in his book. He pays attention not only to our troubles but to how we respond to them. He sees our faith in action, turning tears into prayers – and prayers into thanksgiving.
There is “A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) Turning our tears into prayers invites laughter and dance and brings hope to the sorrow. May such contented joy be yours.