by Lieanne Lara
Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? – Psalm 56:8.
While surfing the internet to gather some ideas for sermonette for kids, I came across the story of the tear bottle. I had never heard of it and I never knew it has a very captivating history.
The tear bottle tradition has historically been a mourning tradition. They were prevalent in ancient Rome and Egypt, when mourners would collect their tears and bury them with loved ones to show love and respect.
It reappeared during the Victorian period of the 19th century, when those mourning the loss of loved ones would collect their tears in bottles with special stoppers that allowed the tears to evaporate. When the tears had evaporated, the mourning period would end. In some American Civil War stories, women were said to have cried into tear bottles and saved them until their husbands returned from battle. Their collected tears would show the men how much they were adored and missed.
Out of curiosity, I’ve checked how it looks like. I found out that it is very symbolic and a bit profound. How ironic. It’s beautiful yet its purpose was a bit depressing. No matter how expensive or beautiful it is, it is still made to collect tears.
It became more interesting to me when I found out that tear bottle also appeared in the Bible when King David prayed to God, “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” Psalm 56:8. It was when he was being pursued by Saul on one side and surrounded by Philistines in the city of Goliath on the other. He asked God to remember his tears.
Like King David, there were times in my life that I prayed to God to remember my tears. Have you ever been in a situation when you didn’t know what to pray for? Many times here in Korea, I have found myself kneeling in prayer, broken-hearted and crying a puddle of tears while thinking about my family way back home. I’ve always been so worried about my brother who has been suffering from a blood related disease called ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura) for almost two years, and my 86-year old grandmother who was so weak because of many complications.
Tears are silent prayers, they said. I didn’t utter words but my burdens brought me to tears as I talked to God. I was so worried with my family especially with my grandparents. I wanted my grandmother’s suffering to end but I knew it would mean that my grandfather had to live alone. I couldn’t even imagine it for I witnessed how much he loved my grandmother.
I never realized I was worrying too much. I even thought of how God would answer my prayer. Then He showed me that He has His way in answering our prayers, and that would always be for the best, no matter how painful it is.
Early morning on the 18th of December 2013, the day after my grandmother was discharged from the hospital, my grandfather was found on their bed at peace. And since my grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, that saved her from the agony of losing a husband.
I went back to the Philippines and spent most of the time with my family especially with my grandmother. It took a few days for her to remember me again but I ‘m thankful to have spent time with her. After a week, I left with a heavy heart.
We were still grieving for the loss of our grandfather when my grandmother breathed her last several weeks later. I was alone when I heard the news and the only thing that I could do was to cry in prayer.
The Bible provides a lot of promises to comfort us when we are in pain. Yet when we are put into a tough situation, we still have the tendency to ask God why. We doubt, we fail to have the faith, we err, we stumble and sometimes, we fall. I am aware that God won’t give anything we can’t handle but like any other tasks, clinging into God’s promises is easier said than done. No matter how many Bible verses I know, it felt like they weren’t enough.
The only answer that God has given is Jesus. He reminded me the shortest in the entire Bible which says, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). It says that when He saw Mary weeping for her brother who had died, he cried too. That is the same Jesus whom we believe. He completely understands the feeling of a brokenhearted.
I am amazed because of the peace and strength that God’s presence gives. No problem has the capacity to be insurmountable for Him. He is bigger than all the problems that can hit us, and we are not left alone to deal with them. When teardrops begin to fall, surely there must be angels also watching. And God would always send them to comfort the ones who are dear to Jesus’ heart.
King David’s prayer is a remarkable insight into the tender heart of our heavenly Father. He has a tear bottle. Maybe it’s not literal but it made me realize that our Lord sees every tear that falls as He looks from heaven’s portals. He knows each sorrow of our heart and is touched by the feelings of our infirmities. It is so comforting that when we cry, he cries with us. But it is even more comforting that one day, we will be together with Him and there will be no more tears.