Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

God’s Tear Jar May 8, 2012

Filed under: Psalms — Stephanie Rische @ 8:05 am
Tags: , ,

ImageMy husband, Daniel, has given me many gifts in the nine months we’ve been married, but one of the most gracious is the way he handles my tears.

Over the years I’ve prided myself in my ability to handle things pretty stoically, at least to all watching eyes. But somehow since saying, “I do,” I’ve found I’m much leakier than I used to be—perhaps because I’ve found in Daniel such a safe place.

One of my favorite images in the Psalms is the picture David paints in Psalm 56 of God collecting all our tears in a bottle. David was no stranger to sadness. For all that his life was charmed—what with giant killing and a promotion from shepherd to king—he still had plenty to feel down about along the way.

It seems significant that David wrote about God’s tear jar when he did: just after being rejected by two communities. First, by King Saul, whom David had served faithfully, both with his music and in battle, risking his very life only to be repaid with a spear aimed at his head. On the heels of that rejection came another one: this time from the Philistines, whom David had been fighting with side-by-side since his exile. It was in that moment of feeling alone that he cried out to God:

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

When I picture heaven, I envision one room that’s filled with shelf after shelf of jars—jars of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Each one is labeled with a name, and on the inside are all the tears that person sheds during his or her time on earth.

Something I love about the tear jar image is what it says about God’s view of our suffering. He doesn’t tell us to suck it up; he doesn’t instruct us to plaster a fake smile on our faces; he doesn’t wag his finger and rebuke us for being babies. He tenderly collects every tear, validating each stab of pain we feel. No teardrop is too bitter. No sorrow too small. Each one is lovingly guided into the jar.

When Daniel and I first got married, I found myself frequently apologizing for my tears. Especially when they felt weak or unnecessary or just plain silly. But each time Daniel would put his arms around me and find the nearest napkin or paper towel or sleeve to wipe my runny mascara. Then he’d say, “You don’t have to be sorry. The Daniel-and-Stephanie team is okay with tears.”

God’s team, gratefully, is the same. The jars in heaven with your name on it is proof.

“Where there are tears, we should pay attention.”
—Frederick Buechner


I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.


22 Responses to “God’s Tear Jar”

  1. Dan Elliott Says:

    I love this declaration: “You don’t have to be sorry. The Daniel-and-Stephanie team is okay with tears.”

  2. alice Teisan Says:

    Thanks for sharing. You do such a great job of combining your own vulnerability while inviting your readers into being okay with their vulnerabilities.

  3. This blog is absolutely beautiful. It took me many years to “get it” and understand that God is OK with our shedding tears. The jar shelves in heaven are such an appropriate illustration! Thank you for sharing. God bless you!

  4. Nancy Rische Says:

    He learned it from his Dad.

  5. studiosmith Says:

    I have a lot of jars. I should have used one for this.

    I also appreciate “The Daniel-and-Stephanie team is okay with tears” comment.

  6. maggierowe Says:

    Stephanie, I loved this post because one of my favorite mementoes from my trip to Israel back in the 90s is a replica tear flask. Our guide explained that the Israelites (presumably women but perhaps men as well) so valued tears that they were captured and preserved in small glass bottles with a stopper, which is why David made the reference to “God’s bottle” that he did. It’s also speculated that the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears may have actually poured out the content of her flask on her Lord and Savior. The old saints used to call weeping “the charism of tears.” Big girls (and boys) DO cry – thanks for acknowledging that it can be a holy function.

    • Maggie, what a wonderful insight! That gives even more depth to the story about the woman who washed Jesus’ feet…that it was tears she’d been storing up for years.

  7. tiffanie Says:

    i like the Daniel-and-Stephanie team!

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  10. dam1550 Says:

    Stephanie, this is one of my favorite Bible images also. I hope you don’t mind but I used some of your blog post to comfort my daughter and her friends who lose a so-loved family member- their dog, Mickey who is leaving this world today after his favorite breakfast and a run on his favorite beach-Moonstone Beach in Northern California. Thank you for the mirror of your heart to share today.

    • Thank you for your note! I am honored to have you share this post with your daughter. I know the pain of losing a dog–they truly become part of the family. I just said a prayer for your daughter, that God will bring her comfort and remind her that he’s with her and that he sees her tears.

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