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By Brian Keepers
“Daddy, does God ever cry?”
This is the question my youngest daughter, Abby, asks me when she is only four years old. She asks it so innocently, doesn’t even look up from the coloring page she fills in with crayon scribbles as she sits at the kitchen table.
She doesn’t wait for me to answer. “Sometimes I cry,” she says, grabbing for a blue crayon. “Like, when I get hurt…or when my sister is mean to me.”
More coloring. She takes another crayon, a green one this time.
I watch her sitting there, the crayon moving furiously in her little hand. I think: When did she get so big? And where is this question coming from…does God ever cry?
I turn and look out the window at the snow gently falling to the ground. I think about all the pain in our world. I think about how, up to this point, the most pain she has experienced is skinning her knee or fighting with her sister. I want to protect her. I want to protect both my girls, shield them from a world where there is so much pain.
But I can’t. There will be pain. There will be sorrow. It happens to us all.
Does God ever cry?
It’s such a deep theological question, isn’t it? In seminary I learned the classical divine attributes to describe God. Words like immutable and omniscient and omnipresent. Big words that are all true of the Holy God of the Universe who is so far beyond our comprehension. God is not human like us. God is Spirit. God transcends human experience and human emotion.
But Abby wants to know… does God ever cry?
We know that Jesus did. On multiple occasions we are told that he was so overcome with sorrow, he wept openly. Luke 13:31-35 for instance. Jesus takes a slow, deliberate look around the city of Jerusalem, and his face suddenly turns downcast. You hear the pathos in his voice:
“Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who have been sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathered the brood under her wings, and you were not willing.”
This will not be the last time Jesus weeps for Jerusalem. Luke tells us that as Jesus came near and saw the city once more, after his triumphal entry, he began to weep openly, saying, “If only you had recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes…You did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” (Lk. 19:41-44)
Abby wants to know…does God ever cry?
“Daddy,” she says. “I bet if God did cry, his tears would be really big!”
I think about Jesus weeping for Jerusalem. I think about Jesus clawing the ground of Gethsemane. I think about Jesus crying out from the cross. I think about the Father turning his face away from his beloved Son in that terrible moment and shaking with a sorrow so fierce we will never fully understand its agonizing depths. I think about all that is so very, very wrong with the world now.
And then I think about the surprise of Easter morn, and a hope so equally fierce and beautiful it blossoms the promise of a day when pain will be no more and every tear will be wiped away.
“Yes, Abby,” I say. “God does cry. And I bet his tears are really big.”
“How big, Daddy? How big are God’s tears?”
“What do you think?” I ask her.
“I think God’s tears are as big as the whole world!” she says, flinging her arms out as far as she can reach.
“Yes, Abby, that’s right,” I smile. “God’s tears are as big as the whole world.”
He was despised and rejected by others,
A man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…
Surely he took up our infirmities
And carried our sorrows.
Isaiah 53:2-4 (NIV)
Brian Keepers is the lead pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, IA.