Our kids cry a lot.
That’s what came to my mind yesterday after the third episode of tears in a matter of minutes. I often tell myself, “I can’t stand all of this crying!”
But children do cry . . . a lot.
Especially the little ones. In fact, the littler a person, the more he or she cries. All of the books say that newborns cry for three hours a day. (Three hours a day!) I think the books should mention that this doesn’t suddenly go away when baby digs into his first birthday cake. Toddlers rival that three-hour statistic with vigor! Quite honestly, daily crying doesn’t really stop until . . .
until . . .
Well, I guess the books should just say, “Children cry a lot.”
They cry when things don’t go their way.
They cry when they’re tired, hungry, or thirsty.
Children cry when they fall. And they fall often.
They cry when they bump into things. And they bump into things often.
They cry when they see a spider or a mascot or a stray cat.
They cry when math is difficult, when reading is difficult, when cleaning is difficult.
Children cry when they’ve been wrongly accused, and they cry when they’ve been rightly accused.
They cry when they are wet, cold, or hot.
They cry when someone has hurt them. They cry when they’ve done the hurting.
They cry when they don’t want to leave. They cry when they do want to leave.
They cry when they want mommy and when they don’t want mommy.
They cry when they want to do something “by myself!” and they cry when they need help.
Children cry when they want something that belongs to someone else. They cry when someone else wants something that belongs to them.
They cry when they must wait, and they cry when they must come immediately.
Sometimes, it seems as if I spend my whole day kissing boo-boos, soothing hurt feelings, and calming teary tempers.
The Reason Behind the Crying
I compiled this list when I was laying in bed last night, shedding a few of my own exhausted tears into the pillow. I reflected on the validity of the experiences that cause children to cry, and I realized this . . . Children cry because life is hard.
Life is hard from the very beginning—from the first breath. Life challenges every fiber in us and exposes our every weakness. And because of that, we cry.
Children cry because they are honest—childhood is not all roses. It may be full of beautiful and charming experiences, but it’s also full of many disappointments and tensions. In childhood, our needs, instincts, and ideals are threatened more fiercely than in any other season of our lives.
Our fears are born with us and they loom before us at their largest and most powerful when we are at our smallest and weakest.
Too often, our tender skin breaks open. Too often, our tender hearts break open.
I want to change my response to all of the crying. I want to transform my muttered, “I can’t stand all of this crying,” to a resolved, “I can stand all of this crying with God’s help and for His glory.”
The transformation will happen as I look to the gospel, discovering what God thinks about the crying that punctuates our days. Gospel treasures will strengthen me to bear up under all of the tears—theirs and my own.
God’s View of Our Tears
Jesus cried perfectly to redeem our imperfect tears. Jesus always cried for the right reasons. His sorrows were perfectly aligned with God’s heart. This was for our sake, that His righteous tears would be imputed to those who believe in Him. Every time our children cry out of stubbornness, selfishness, or anger, we can thank Jesus for crying perfectly for our sakes.
God gave us the ability to cry; He has good purposes for it. God beckons us to Himself through our instinct to cry. He asks for our tears; He welcomes our complaints, and He moves heaven and earth to bear our sorrows. The Psalmist wrote what has been true of billions of people throughout history: “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles” (Ps. 34:6).
Crying is an appetite that God gave us so that we would come near to Him. Nothing on earth satisfies our tears the way God does. Tears are our piece of a puzzle that is completed only by God’s listening ear and comforting presence. When we cry, we reveal that we were made to be comforted, befriended, loved, and helped by someone perfectly merciful and good.
When we cry, we demonstrate the gospel—things on earth are not all right, but that they will be some day. From my child’s first cry (and all the crying in-between), may I usher her toward her heavenly Father, who sees and cares for every sorrow. Every day, over and over again, may I see my children’s tears as countless opportunities to point my little ones to Jesus, the One who deliberately assures us that He will personally wipe every tear from our eyes.
God entrusts adults with the ability to comfort children for His sake.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly . . . “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:15–16, 20–21).
Who is “lowlier” than a child? Children rely on adults for every earthly need. They desperately need us to associate with them in the midst of their weakness . . . because of their weakness. They need us to kneel down, look them in the eyes, and help them. Do they need food? Sleep? Do they need prayer? Do they need us to teach them a virtue like self-control, kindness, or obedience? Do they simply need our affection?
Though they are not our enemies, children are hungry and thirsty. They need us to overcome our own self-preservation and comfort to feed and help them. They are facing evil in themselves and in the world around them—from sickness to jealousy, from hunger to selfishness—with naiveté and tender hearts.
May God give us the grace to resist selfishness, busyness, and irritability so that we may see our children’s tears as an opportunity to serve Christ by serving His precious children.
In order to answer this call to persevere and love my children when they cry, I must plan ahead to be strong, patient, and faithful.
Jesus not only cried perfectly, but He also comforted criers perfectly for our sakes and as an example for us. Part of His ministry was handling His own body well: Jesus slept, hiked the mountains, prayed, spent time with friends, and pursued solitude so He could comfort, feed, and heal people—over and over again. Like Jesus, I find that sleep, exercise, friends, solitude, and prayer fuel me for a day of service, too.
Other God-given gifts strengthen me to face a day of tears as well; things like soothing music, small ice packs at-the-ready in the freezer, band-aids upstairs and downstairs, a consistent and simple schedule, and wholesome food are daily resources. I try to think ahead about the things that tend to weaken our specific children and address those needs before it’s too late. But many times, I’m unable to prevent or stop the tears.
And that’s when we turn again and again and again to our patient heavenly Father. And we cry.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 21:1–5).