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Tears in a Bottle

September 16, 2016 No Comment

by Paul Zabel

Rev. Paul Zabel

Rev. Paul Zabel

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)

Upon attending the visitation at the funeral home for a dear friend and one of my many “fathers” in the faith, my wife and I were greeted in the line of family members by one of the gentleman’s daughters. As we conversed, she shared with me her recollection of the words of Scripture that referred to our tears being put into a bottle by God and how those tears are kept by our Lord and our God. When she questioned me as to where these words were located in Scripture, I had to admit that I did not know, but that I would certainly find out. And, believe it or not, I suggested to her that my answer would appear either in the next Canadian Lutheran or in the next East District Newsletter, the “Eden Report.”

Well, here is the answer. The Scripture verse is Psalm 56:8. In this verse David recalled the fact that God was intimately concerned with every aspect of his life. And by these words of David, we, too, are reminded of the fact that God is just as concerned about every aspect of our lives as well. God doesn’t stand apart, judging from a distance whether our sorrows are “valid.” Because of His compassion, He catches every tear that is shed. It doesn’t matter how big or small, trivial or important, the sorrow might be.

In this Psalm, David was expressing grief over his situation, which was truly dangerous. Saul wanted his own son to be king of Israel following him and was hunting David, whom God had designated to be the next king, in order to murder him. This forced David to constantly be on the move as he tried to escape. In the process of fleeing for his life from Saul, David was captured by the Philistines in Gath. Now, what was he to do and what was going to happen to him? At this point in time, David was grieved, fearful, and unsure about his future. Apparently tears began to flow as he poured out his feelings to God. It was then that David reached out to God and cried out: “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).

David drew comfort knowing that no matter what he was going through, God had great compassion on him and gathered all his precious tears in a bottle. David trusted God with his life and his future. He wasn’t embarrassed about his tears, and we need not be either, even when we wish we could hold them back. Life challenges us. Seasons of change bump into our normal status quo. When this happens, tears often spring up and efforts to contain them fall short.

David trusted God with his life and his future. He wasn’t embarrassed about his tears, and we need not be either, even when we wish we could hold them back.

As the years go by, we sometimes find ourselves reminiscing and wondering why things cannot just remain the way they used to be. There also comes the time when God takes our near and dear ones, one by one, to Himself into His heavenly home. It is for this reason that many of the ancient Greeks and Romans were known to put the tears which were shed at the death of people whom they knew in small vials and place them into the tombs of the deceased. In other words, this was a method people used in the past to remember the tears that were shed in grief as a result of their love and care for their loved ones.

David’s point in Psalm 56:8 is this: God cares! He knows what is going on and He hasn’t forgotten His children nor has lost track of what has happened to them. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man, that You think of him? What is the Son of Man that You care for Him?” (Psalm 8:4). Our Lord God is present with us and knows every tear that we shed, and we can count on Him to collect them. No matter what sorrows we face, we can be confident that God cares.

Thank You, God for the years we have been privileged to live and enjoy. Thank You, too, for the hope that death is not the end of life—that somehow, in a way beyond our comprehension, we will continue to live with You, live on in the memory of our loved ones, and be reunited with those who have already entered eternal life, because of Your suffering and death on the cross to take away all of our sins. Amen.


Rev. Paul Zabel is President of the East District of Lutheran Church–Canada.

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