Week of October 12
The Weeping God
"God feels our pain with us," said dear old Mrs. Rodbro at the Wednesday evening prayer service. She had related an experience that took her through great agony, but she found peace because "God felt every heartache, every pain."
In my early twenties, I was a new convert and still learning the basics of the faith. That was the first time I heard anyone talking about God feeling I could hardly grasp the significance of her testimony.
Old Testament writers refer to God's strong arm, eyes that see, ears, that hear, the palm engraved with our names, as well as references to God's anger and displeasure. I learned that the Bible is filled with what we call anthropomorphisms, which literally means "human forms." The concept enabled the writers to explain the unexplainable.
Were Mrs. Rodbro's words, then, simply a metaphor to say that God condescends to us in our need? For me, it meant that God cared and acted on our behalf, but always from a distance. We benefit from the blessings of God, and because they affect us personally, we respond to them personally and emotionally. That sounded simple enough.
But that just didn't satisfy me. I remember thinking, Surely God doesn't have emotions. So if that's true, how can God "feel"?
Finally, I thought about Jesus, the human personification of God. He truly represents and models God for us, and he certainly had feelings.
Perhaps it sounds as if I'm making too much of the emotions of God. I'm writing about it because it troubled me for a long time. How could an all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God "feel" for humanity? I could grasp God acting benevolently as a rational decision, the way I might decide to donate money for victims of a flood or send underprivileged kids to camp.
But God feeling human emotions? God hurting emotionally?
I'm slightly embarrassed to write about this discovery-and it was a discovery to me. Long after I had intellectually grasped that God felt, it remained just that-an intellectual concept, a doctrine of the mind.
I know Jesus wept over Lazarus's death (see Jn 1:35). Even the witnesses commented on how much Jesus loved his friend. Another time, Jesus cried over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41) and its impending destruction. But I had read those passages many times before the fire struck and the heat inside said, "Ah, yes, I understand."
That's it. God weeps for us.
The experience that taught me about the Weeping God began when another Christian hurt me deeply. He spoke unkind words about me, privately to a few of my friends and then, later, publicly. I wasn't there to defend myself, and I heard about it only much later.
When I heard what he had said about me, I felt crushed. I went into the worst bout of depression I'd ever experienced. I cried, and I pleaded for God's help. Once I even prayed (scripturally, of course!) for God to "requite" him for his sins, a pious way of asking God to punish him for what he had done to me. Many times I asked God to forgive him and me.
I didn't get over the heartache. It stayed with me for weeks, often like a low-grade fever that surged with pain from time to time. At one point, I was sure I had gotten over it and forgiven him.
"I'm over it now," I said to my wife. "I've finally put it behind me."
But my wife, who knows me well, said, "If you've forgiven him, why do you keep bringing it up?"
She had me.
Back to prayer and more prayer. One rainy October night, Shirley was out of town, and I was home alone. I felt spiritually low. The man's name kept coming back to me, and I knew I had to break through my resistance and forgive him.
I prayed for several minutes and nothing happened. Then-and I have no explanation why it happened at that moment-I began to cry. It felt as if all the heartache and pain I had stored inside burst into the open. Resentment, anger, and jealousy filled my heart. I confessed and asked forgiveness, but the pain didn't go away.
"Don't you care?" I cried out to God at one point. "Can't you see how much I hurt?"
In one of those quiet, unexplainable moments, I knew God felt my pain. I knew, as I had never known experientially or emotionally before, that God felt what I was going through. It was no longer a distant caring or a commitment to give me peace, but a divine identification with a flawed human being.
The Weeping God, I thought. What a concept.
We talk of divine power, but how often do we talk about the Weeping God? The one who feels our infirmities with us? Immediately I thought of the book of Hebrews and its reference to Jesus as our high priest. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but he was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15, NKJV).
As I invoke the image of the Weeping God, I envision Jesus sitting on his throne in heaven. He knows what I'm going through, and tears slide down his cheeks. Then I "know" the Weeping God feels my pain.
Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But did not sin. --Hebrews 4:15, CEV
Jesus, my Weeping God,
When I hurt, you not only understand my pain,
but you feel it.
When I cry, your tears match mine.
Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for being the
Divinely Human One. Amen.
For more from Cec, please visit www.cecilmurphey.com.
Cecil Murphey has written more than one hundred books on a variety of topics with an emphasis on Spiritual Growth, Christian Living, Caregiving, and Heaven. He enjoys preaching in churches and speaking and teaching at conferences around the world. To book Cec for your next event, please contact Twila Belk at 563-332-1622.