You number my wanderings. You put my tears into your bottle. Aren’t they in your book? (Psalm 56:8)
They say we live in a vale of tears. But not always are we stuck in that valley. Sometimes we walk in the big sky country of life. Once in a while, it even seems we are on top of the world. Yet, all too soon, we descend again into the depths—sometimes even into the deep valley of the shadow of death.
Isn’t it striking that when we look back over our path in life we more quickly pick out the times of pain or regret instead of the joy and success? Maybe it’s because pain stings more than success soothes. Maybe it is simply that life contains more sorrow than joy.
We were born crying. We cried often in the toddler years. As we grew up we learned to stifle our cries and hide our tears. But that did not mean they were not there. Sometimes the greatest pain of heart is suffered in silence and isolation. Maybe not even those closest to us knew of the hurt inside and the tears that were swallowed.
An old song contains the words, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus!” Those words aren’t written in the Bible, but they carry the Bible’s message.
David wrote this psalm when he was taken captive by the Philistines. They knew who he was. They knew the song of the Israelites:“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (I Samuel 21:11). They knew they had the killer of Goliath in their hands. David knew that there was a good chance that his life was over.
As he thought of this, he raised his voice in prayer. To the Lord, he declared: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). The Lord God knew the trouble he was in. David believed that the Lord had always kept track of him, had numbered all of his many wanderings. And he was right!
The Holy One of Israel had also noted every last tear that had fallen on his cheek. Not one was ignored. Each one was remembered and recorded as if it were a keepsake to be stored in a bottle.
David knew what we should know. The watchful eyes of our Lord God are caring eyes. He does not prevent us from having tears, but he does measure them. His own Son wept before the tomb of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane. God the Father’s heart ached over the tears his Son shed, but he did not intervene to stop them. He did not excuse his Son from having to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But, he did not forget him, either. Jesus was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God the Father. One day we will join him.
We hear that he shall wipe away every tear from our eyes—and we will never cry again. That’s his promise!
The God of Grace and Glory knows the trouble we have seen. He has counted our tears—and put them into a bottle.
Heavenly Father, your eyes look into the deep recesses of our hearts and see the traces of the hurt and pain that are stored there. This was not part of your plan for humans. You had intended that we would live in a sinless, painless world forever. The rebellion in Eden ruined all that. We thank you for sending Jesus to rescue us from the dominion of sin, death, and the Devil. Reassure us that you are standing watch over our lives. Let us find comfort and strength in knowing that you see the troubles we have and that even our tears are precious to you. Lead us on as we walk through that valley. Lead us home. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military and Lutheran Military Support Group