The Paper Pulpit
My wife and I were in a store here in Wilmington several months ago shopping for supplies when we came upon a lady we did not know who was talking on her cell phone. It was obvious from the tone of her voice and the expression on her face that something was very wrong. Suddenly the conversation ended and she began sobbing. Tears were flowing down her cheeks. For this to happen in such a public place, it was obvious that she had heard something very difficult to handle. We went over to her, told her who we were, and asked if there was something we could do to help.
She told us that her mother, who lived in another North Carolina city, had just died. After we learned more of the details causing her emotion, we assured her that God knew her need at that very moment, and that He stood ready to provide the comfort and strength she needed. The death of a loved one is just one of many things that can be difficult for us. Suffering, tragedy, pain and other kinds of difficulties can also initiate heartbreak and cause our tears to flow.
Suppose I had said to the lady, “Don’t cry, for we all have to die sooner or later. Maybe it was just your mother’s time to come to the end of her journey. Try to accept it and put your mind on something else. Go out to Wrightsville Beach and walk on the beach. Listen to the splashing of the waves. It will give you a sense of peace.”
Do you think that would have helped her? Absolutely not! Her pain at the moment was normal and very real. With our arms around her, we encouraged her to go ahead and cry. God created us with tear glands. He knew there would be times when sorrow or tragedy would run over us like a runaway freight train. The ability to cry provides a safety valve, and we encouraged her to use it. Then, with people all around, we prayed with her.
Ernie Pyle, the famous war correspondent, wrote a wonderful story of the time he walked on the beaches of Normandy after that invasion.
The sand was strewn with the personal effects of the boys who lay fallen in battle – snapshots, letters, books and other things. By the side of one young soldier there was a guitar. Near another he saw a Bible half buried in the sand. He picked the Bible up and walked on down the beach. When he had gone a good distance, he turned around, went back and laid the Bible beside the young soldier where he had found it.
He later said, “I don’t know why I picked it up, or why I put it back.” Maybe he was thinking he would send it to the boy’s parents. It would have been a comfort to them. Maybe he put it back, feeling that since the soldier had died with his Bible, it should remain beside his body. It is obvious that the young man carried his Bible with him into battle because he believed it contained the answers he needed as he faced the possibility of dying. Indeed, he did die, and when the news reached his parents back home in this country, they shed many tears just as the lady did that we met in the store.
When your heart is broken and tears fill your eyes, your first inclination may be to go to bed, to give up and surrender. But if you will turn in God’s direction and exercise faith in Him, His power will flow into you, and give you a power that will demand expression. And as you keep going, you will become able to handle the ache in your heart. You may remember the popular song, “Singing in the Rain.” When the rain comes into your life and everything seems dark and dreary, keep walking — don’t stop — and as you walk, begin to sing. You can’t prevent the rain from coming. But through faith in God, and with His power working within you, He will enable you to sing in the rain.
While incarcerated in a dungeon on the isle of Patmos, the apostle John saw a vision of a time in the future when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things will have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). It is one of God’s greatest promises, and it has brought comfort to millions of people when their tears were flowing.
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.