Tears: Toward a Biblical Theology

Tears: Toward a Biblical Theology


  1. Wesley shortridge



CONTENTS……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ii

INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1


Religious Views…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 4

Tears in Hebrew Tradition………………………………………………………………………….. 4

Tears in Other Religious Traditions……………………………………………………………… 5

Tears in the Christian Tradition…………………………………………………………………… 7

Tears in Contemporary North American Evangelicalism………………………………… 7

Universal Views of Tears…………………………………………………………………………………. 9

HUMAN TEARS IN THE BIBLE……………………………………………………………………………… 11

THE TEARS OF GOD……………………………………………………………………………………………… 16

God’s Grief and Judgment in the Bible………………………………………………………………….. 16

Jesus as the Expression of God’s Tears………………………………………………………………….. 19

The Relational Nature of Tears…………………………………………………………………………….. 22


TEARS AND CHURCH PRACTICE…………………………………………………………………………. 28

Tears and Worship………………………………………………………………………………………………. 29

Tears and Fellowship…………………………………………………………………………………………… 30

Tears and Discipleship………………………………………………………………………………………… 30

Tears and Mission………………………………………………………………………………………………. 31

CONCLUSION……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 33

SOURCES CONSULTED………………………………………………………………………………………… 34





Tears universally exist across cultures and throughout history. The Bible records many examples of tears both from humans and from God. In this paper I will explore tears in culture and in various religious traditions. I will explore tears in theology and describe some possibilities for improving churches based on a theology of tears. This work is not an exhaustive view of tears in the Bible or in theology. It will, however deal with the key ideas and theological conflicts concerning the subject. Specifically, I will provide a biblical hermeneutic of crying to assist the church to minister to those who cry.



Humans enter the world with tears, and tears provide a primary means of communication for the early parts of life. Kimberly Christine Patton and John Stratton Hawley observe, “Among the very earliest expressions of distress in the infant’s range, tears remain a profound existential signifier at all stages of human life, particularly in the face of fear, loss, or despair. Crying is a response of the parasympathetic nervous system that helps return the stimulated organism to homeostasis.”[i] While some primate infants exhibit behavior similar to human crying to summon parental care, humans are the only animals able to cry as adults.[ii] From an evolutionary viewpoint, adult crying manifests as a means of signaling defenselessness and surrender or of summoning help from others within the crier’s social network.[iii] Adult human tears appear as a uniquely human behavioral phenomenon.

Humans often repress tears. Most cultures view crying as weak behavior and gender crying as female. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross observes, “Tears are one of the many ways we release our sadness, one of our many wondrous built-in healing mechanisms. Unfortunately, too often we try to stop this necessary and primal release.”[iv] Repressed tears prevent a person from expressing his or her feelings of helplessness and summoning help from others. The result of repression of tears manifests in unhealed persons and in destructive behaviors including addictions and harming others. Ernest Becker observes the human tendency to deny painful realities and replace the healthy processing of reality with destructive behaviors. He writes, “Even if the average man lives in a kind of obliviousness of anxiety, it is because he has erected a massive wall of repressions to hide the problem of life and death. His banality may protect him, but all through history it is the ‘normal, average men’ who, like locusts, have laid waste to the world in order to forget themselves.”[v] Humans cry as an involuntary behavioral response to inner conflict involving feelings of helplessness and the need for social support. Unfortunately many persons repress tears due to social mores or gender expectations. Society usually genders tears as feminine, and subsequently views tears as a sign of weakness in males. Crying seems to signal the surrender of the crier, or crying appears childish. Unfortunately, the repressed tears of those desiring to appear powerful result in the infliction of pain on the weak.

Human adults experiencing inner pain and conflict normally cry. Repression of tears results in deeper feelings of pain. Kübler-Ross writes,  “Unexpressed tears do not go away; their sadness resides in our bodies and souls.”[vi] Socially, however, many equate tears with weakness, and they remind those observing the tears of their own ambiguities and finitude. Humans in modern society almost universally repress tears. The repression of tears results in a society that refuses to be healed. Society transfers its inner hurt onto others, and a cycle of grief begins and the pain increases. The process of grieving and lament as expressed in human crying could intervene. Crying serves as an involuntary response to overwhelming stimuli and ambiguity resulting from overwhelming problems of injustice and death. Crying involves releasing illusions of control and acknowledging ambiguities and denials. Crying subsequently summons and acknowledges powers greater than the crier. These greater powers may be others within a person’s social network, or God. A crier admits powerlessness and calls for power from outside self. Crying recognizes personal finitude and summons the transcendent. Tears require a hermeneutic of interpretation from the crier, the observer, and from society.

Religious Views

Religion as a social phenomenon emerges from the human tendency to explain the unexplainable and summon power greater than self or a person’s immediate social network. Most world religions view tears as a sign of personal surrender and summoning of power greater than self. For this reason, it seems reasonable to assume secularization under Modernity, which exalts personal power and denies any higher power, drives much repression of tears and mourning rituals. Tears, however, serve as a universal human expression and the benefits of the expression diminish when repressed. Secular humanism in its view of humanity as the highest form of existence leaves society weak through its denial of any power able to transcend its pain. Patton and Hawley observe,  “Often tears seem an expression of surrender before the inexorable, but myth and tradition repeatedly point in the opposite direction, stressing the view that weeping can actually transform what had seemed fixed forever.”[vii] Tears point firmly to the unexplainable and transcendent. They acknowledge ambiguity. Humans desiring to exalt humanity to godlike status would reasonable repress tears. Herbert W. Basser writes, “The mystery of crying is that through tears the outside world and the interior worlds merge deep inside the human spirit. That is why tears are the medium of a theology that must remain unspoken. To explain tears is to explain them away.”[viii] God acknowledges the unexplainable and finite nature of life and gifts humans with tears to express their finitude and anxiety.

Tears in Hebrew Tradition

Hebrew concepts of tears divide into two concepts: weeping as an uncontrollable behavior and crying as a behavior resulting from many causes including controlled response to an external stimulus.[ix] To the Jewish mind, Humans cry as a sacrifice to God. God stores a person’s tears in order to resurrect the mourner along with his or her righteous tears.[x] Tears relate to worship. The notes of the shofar used to summon Jews to worship mimic the sounds of weeping.[xi]

Hebrew worship centered on the temple. After the destruction of the temple, tears replaced temple sacrifice as an expression of worship. Jewish pilgrims at the modern Wailing Wall provide an example. Post-temple worship involves God joining the worshipper in tears rather than temple ritual. Basser observes, “While tears signal exile and destruction, they have come to replace that for which they mourn. The substitution of the sacrificial system by tears is a very important theme.”[xii] Unexplainable loss and sorrow form a core concept in Jewish religion that acknowledges the ambiguities of life in light of God’s yet unfulfilled promises. Nancy Van Dyke Platt and Chilton R. Knudsen observe,

In Jewish practices of spirituality, even in the happiest moments of life, there is a reminder of sorrow and pain: “We were slaves in a foreign land.” Rituals such as the crushing of a glass at a wedding remind us of the pain and suffering of life. Christians say the same thing as they hold crucifixion in tension with resurrection, and in the traditional marriage vows with addition of the words, “for better or worse” and “until death do us part.”[xiii]


Expressions of grief and loss appear throughout Jewish practice.

Tears in Other Religious Traditions

In Buddhist practice tears signal spiritual enlightenment. Gary L. Ebersole observes, “Some tears lead to deep religious understanding, some marked the person shedding them as having achieved a specific spiritual state, and still others functioned as signs of spiritual indebtedness to another person or of another karmic connection.”[xiv] To the Buddhist, tears fulfill the core needs of reaching for the transcendent and for social support. Tears themselves indicate transcendental enlightened experience.

In Greek tradition platonic dualism creates sharp distinctions between ideals and experienced reality. Tears function as a bridge between the ideal world of the gods and human life. Gary Ord Pollock Lynch states that tears in Greek tradition  “cross the boundaries between the visible and invisible worlds and make possible the contact between the living and the dead.”[xv] Human emotion, especially grief, transcends the unexplainable and acknowledges that things are not as they should be. Tears acknowledge human weakness and point to the perfect forms in Greek ideology.

Kay Almere Read observes the tribal traditions of the Mexica Indians. They viewed tears as “honorable or good speech” able to call forth good things by moving the deities to assist the crier if crying was done properly.[xvi] Tears provided a powerful expression of worship that summoned the assistance of the gods. The crier sacrificed before the gods and the gods empowered the crier through the sacrificial expression of weakness.

The Gopī Krishna tradition in India provides a view of religious tears in which a person chooses to cry in order to summon the help of the gods.[xvii] Tears in the Gopī tradition occurred as a response to death or the severing of society. Tears marked a call to transcendence. The Gopī tradition did not see tears as a block to communication but an actual means of communication. The crier crafted numerous elaborate expressions of as communication to a crier’s society and to the gods.

In Islamic tradition tears appear as a uniquely human expression of submission to Allah. Human tears on Earth lead to laughter in heaven while laughter on Earth leads to tears in the afterlife.[xviii] Allah in Muslim tradition cannot cry as he exhibits no weakness. To the Muslim, tears express Allah’s greatness and human weakness. William C. Chittick observes, “Nowhere does Islamic literature, so far as I know, suggest that God weeps.”[xix] Tears in Islam function as in other religions as an expression of human finitude and the hope of transcendence.

Tears in the Christian Tradition

Christian history provides several examples of tears as religious speech. The writings of the Patristic Fathers (John Chrysostem, Gregory Nazianzus, and Basil of Caesarea) suggest that tears moved in Christian tradition from their original purpose as a response to God’s grace to an expression of human finitude and loss.[xx] The Dessert Fathers viewed tears as a grace from God and a tribute to God.[xxi] Tears joined prayer as a core expression of faith under the Desert Fathers. Bishop Kallistos Ware observes that Paul prayed without ceasing while the Dessert Fathers wept without ceasing.[xxii]

Later expressions of Christianity further linked tears with prayer. Diane Apostolos-Cappadona observes the Rule of St. Benedict initiated the concept of gratia lacrimarum in which tears occurred as a gift from God to the church.[xxiii] Under Benedict’s rule, tears must accompany effective prayer. Benedict’s rule evolved into the medieval cult of tears in which tears formed a primary religious expression indicating the piety of the crier. Many, for example, attributed St. Francis’ blindness in old age to excessive crying rather than old age.[xxiv] Tears in Christian tradition expressed human finitude, the fellowship of believers, and the hope of a transcendent God.

Tears in Contemporary North American Evangelicalism

Current expressions of faith in North American Evangelical churches frequently deny grief and tears as a legitimate expression of faith. Perhaps secularization and modernity has influenced religious practice and replaced transcendent longing with triumphalism. Douglas John Hall observes much of the Evangelical attitude toward tears. He writes,  “The purveyors of electronic religion urge us to submit to their gods and their formulas, all of which promise slightly differing versions of the same pain-free life.”[xxv] He further observes disconnect between North American Christianity and ancient tradition. He writes,

As Christians in the North American situation we are obligated to consider this issue very carefully; for, being a society whose foundational assumptions are those of modernity—whose fundamental “religion” has been identified with “the religion of progress”—we must face the prospect of there being a radical incompatibility between our cultural presuppositions and the ancient faith-tradition we blithely claim as our own.[xxvi]


Hall observes the tendency to remove emotion from current expressions of Christianity as a move toward religious triumphalism and away from biblical faith. He continues,

Given the biblical testimony to at least a thousand years of such religious longing, now complemented by almost two thousand additional years of Christian triumphalism, we ought to need no further reminder of the basic distinction between religion and faith. It is the propensity of religion to avoid, precisely, suffering: to have light without darkness, vision without trust, and risk, hope without an ongoing dialog with despair—in short, Easter without Good Friday.[xxvii]


Tears as an expression of faith seem lost in most contemporary practice. Tears reveal human weakness and many refuse to acknowledge personal weakness in the current environment of self-empowering religion.

Hall observes several consequences of the tendency to repress expressions of suffering: difficulty in articulating personal suffering, inability to enter into the suffering of others, and a search for an enemy.[xxviii] The issues of weak discipleship, healing, relationships, and evangelism in contemporary churches may relate directly to the repression of authentic emotion. Rather than address human weakness in the midst of the worship service through tears, the church seems more content looking for a political enemy. Blind triumphalism has repressed human authenticity at the cost of healing, discipleship, fellowship, and mission. Tears in North American Evangelicalism seem to be more equated with modernity’s blind faith in human triumphalism than authentic expression of faith in a transcendent God. The church tragically ignores many within the church and community in their suffering. Hall concludes,  “Thus, we have come upon a moment in history in which not suffering as such but the incapacity to suffer—including the incapacity to acknowledge, accept, and articulate suffering—may be the most terrifying social reality, the thing that determines the fate of the earth.”[xxix]

The current practices of singing happy songs and preaching self-help messages seem far away from the traditional practices of lament that signal human frailty in light of God’s transcendence. Triumphalist expressions that deny current reality have replaced genuine connection with a transcendent God in many cases. The contemporary church often defines God’s grace as material blessing and the absence of suffering rather than God’s fellowship with suffering believers. Fellowship among believers has diminished and the missional effectiveness of a church has declined as the church has failed to connect with culture through shared suffering. God gives the church the gift of tears to express fellowship with a transcendent God who is present in suffering, fellowship among believers, and fellowship with a suffering world.

Universal Views of Tears

Humans communicate through tears. Communication requires a hermeneutic. Throughout history humans have primarily interpreted tears as transcendent longing in which humans acknowledge frailty and summon the transcendent. Apostolos-Cappadona observes,

Our interpretive as well as our communicative skills are critical here, as the exteriority of tears connotes one message to the viewers of the tearful individual while the interiority denotes a different message to the person engaged in shedding tears. Therefore a hermeneutic of tears becomes necessary, as distinctive messages are sent when one views another person’s tears and when one sheds one’s own tears. What may prove to be most significant is that the visible arousal of fluid from the human eye accompanies an internal feeling or emotion to which the viewer of another’s tears responds with empathy, embarrassment, helplessness, or disdain. The reality of tears for the weeper is a transcending experience, as her attention is shifted away from the intellect to the fused external and internal reality of her body while the multiplicity of emotions, feelings, and ideas is embodied within the metaphor of tears; most significantly, that is, within the visual metaphor of tears.[xxx]


Many current hermeneutics of tears in North American Evangelicalism interpret tears more like modern secular humanism than biblical or other world religions would interpret them. In failing to live within the ambiguity of faith that looks to God while hoping for eschatological fullness, the Church has often substituted triumphalism and pretending for authentic faith. The North American Church seems to value human autonomy over summoning the help of God through tears. Culture increasingly acknowledges ambiguity in Postmodernism, but the Church clings to triumphalism and Modernism that suppresses tears. Logic and humanism replace emotion and faith. Most cultures and religions acknowledge human frailty. Tears summon the gods in most cultures.




The tears of humans appear throughout the Bible. Human tears generally represent humility (Ps. 80:5, Acts 20:19), frustration (Jer. 9:1), and disappointment (Lam. 1:16).[xxxi] The primary Hebrew terms used to express tears are “bakah” meaning weeping or bemoaning and “dim’ah” meaning the physical act of crying.[xxxii] The word “dim’ah” specifically means tears already shed or actively being shed.[xxxiii] The Hebrew terms reflect the concept of weeping as an uncontrollable act of emotion and crying as a more controllable or even conscious choice for the crier. The New Testament primarily uses the term “dakruo” for tears. The term encompasses both the idea of weeping and physical tears.[xxxiv]

The Bible first mentions human crying in Genesis 4:10. The concept of human suffering, however, appears in some form throughout creation. The Fall in Eden resulted in much human suffering, but the primary elements of suffering and tears appear in Eden prior to the Fall. Douglas John Hall points out that suffering existed in a limited form prior to the Fall as the loneliness of Adam before Eve, the limits of creation, the temptation represented by the fruit, and the anxiety of the possibility of transgressing God’s limits.[xxxv] The essence of the emotion expressed by tears manifests in Hall’s observations, and it seems reasonable to assume the original humans expressed anxiety and loneliness through tears. Humans exist as limited creatures dependent on God, and tears express the human condition from the start. Life involves suffering. Hall observes, “Life without any kind of suffering would be no life at all; it would be a form of death. Life—the life of the spirit like the life of the body—depends in some mysterious way upon the struggle to be.”[xxxvi] The “struggle to be” forms the essence of the emotion expressed in tears.

The Bible first mentions human tears specifically with the tears of the blood of the slain Abel crying out to God. “And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground’” (Gen. 4:10).[xxxvii] The blood of Abel calls to God from injustice and brings God’s intervention with the murderous Cain. Patrick Miller observes, “So at the very beginning of the human story and of the biblical story—and they really are one and the same story—the voice of the suffering one, the brother, who cries out for help, is what brings God on the scene, what initiates a divine response.”[xxxviii] In Genesis 4 crying expresses hopelessness and summons God to work for the hopeless. Miller describes the voice of the already dead Abel as a voice “that warns us against assuming that the only laments that matter are those where there is still possibility of help, that once the suffering has destroyed the human creature it is too late, nothing can be done, God cannot and will not help.”[xxxix] The Bible first mentions tears as a clear human expression of powerlessness and of longing for God’s intervention.

The poetry of the Book of Job expresses the concept of human suffering and longing for God’s righteous intervention. Job cries out from the ash heap of ruin in the clear context of undeserved suffering. To some extent the suffering results from God’s work in his life, and the suffering in human perspective seems the ultimate of injustice at the hand of God. Job’s friends attempt to explain the suffering and stop Job’s lament, but Job cries out nonetheless. Kathleen O’Conner observes, “The real subject of the Book of Job and the crux of the human problem for Israel is not human suffering, but human relationship with God in the midst of suffering.”[xl] Tears to Job express his relatedness with a God he does not comprehend. The tears themselves express the righteousness of Job in the face of an overwhelming and incomprehensible situation. Ultimately, “Lament grants Job admission to a dialogue with God.”[xli] Provisional dualism exists within the story of Job that permits “the negating dimension an independent role in the service of the positive.”[xlii] Provisional dualism expressed as good and evil exists from the Gardens of Eden and Gethsemane. Provisional dualism provides the tension driving human tears. Job’s story expresses the biblical concept of eschatological longing expressed in tears. Hall writes, “Like Satan in the poem of Job, that which threatens and negates life is intended, in the wisdom of the Creator, for the service of a more abundant life.”[xliii] Tears express and call forth the promise of abundant life. Job’s tears eventually call forth God’s response and restoration. Ellington observes, “While Job’s friends tried to insulate and distance God (and themselves) from Job’s pain by speaking correctly about God, Job spoke what was right to God, with the result that he received not an answer to his questions, but a fresh encounter with his creator.”[xliv] Tears in the religious practice of Job form righteous speech before God expressing longing for God’s presence and justice. Job’s friends express longing for answers and control while Job longs for God in cries of lament.

Human cries find fuller expression in the Psalms. Lament Psalms express human discontent as they cry out for God’s intervention. Nancy J. Duff observes the primary characteristics of Psalms of lament as they commonly “challenge our inability to acknowledge the intense emotions that grief entails, free us to make a bold expression of grief before God and in the presence of others, and allow us to rely on God and the community to carry forth hope on our behalf when we ourselves have no hope with us.”[xlv] Like Job’s laments the Psalms express human longing and finitude that calls God alongside suffering. The act of crying in lament calls forth God. The biblical record provides many examples of crying patriarchs, kings, and common people expressing the tension between reality and life as God promises.

Crying in prophetic literature expresses another dimension of tears. The prophets express the heart of God’s longing through tears. God commands Isaiah to cry as a prophetic act. “A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:6-8). Isaiah prophetically stands between God and men and expresses his position as intermediary through tears commanded by God. Men appear weak and fading but God stands eternal. The tears of Isaiah express both the longing of humanity for God and of God for restored relationship with humanity. The tears stand as a common expression of longing for both God and man. Jeremiah likewise expresses his position as prophetic intermediary through tears. He asks for more tears as a further expression to the people that God stands alongside their suffering. “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1). To the biblical prophet tears express prophetically the shared grief between God and humanity.

Jesus stands as the great prophetic intermediary between God and humanity. Rachel’s inconsolable tears herald His arrival. Matthew draws from the words of Jeremiah, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt. 2:18). Human tears herald and complete Jesus’ mission. Jesus questions Mary Magdalene, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (John 20:15). Kimberly Christine Patton and John Stratton Hawley state that Mary Magdalene’s tears express “the central existential challenges of human existence: how to deal with both the presence and absence of God.”[xlvi] Jesus lives life alongside human tears seeking to navigate the presence of God in the human condition.

The Early Church in scripture encounters suffering and expresses the ambiguity of suffering through tears. The Early Christians were called “people of the way.” The temporality and nature of Christianity finds expression as a journey involving tears. Peter, for example, expresses Christianity in terms of certain suffering in both First and Second Peter. Much of the Epistles deal with the tension between the eschatological promises of God and the reality of suffering. Tears serve as a primary expression of the reality of Christian existence in the “now and not yet.” Tears express the longing for eschatological completeness paid for on the Cross and promised in Revelation. “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” (Rev. 21:4). Those who have endured great tribulation will experience newness with God. Saints cry real tears that express longing for complete relational restoration. God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (7:17). Until that day, tears express the longing of sincere persons of faith for completeness as they live in the reality of the present. Patrick D. Miller observes, “Theologically the cry to God and the response of God are the fundamental theme of the whole of scripture.”[xlvii] Miller continues, “It is only in that eschatological transformation that the Bible speaks of a new heaven and a new earth that the pain and tears of suffering are wiped away and death is no more. Until then, human beings will cry out and God will hear. This is indeed the primary mode of conversation between God and the human creature.”[xlviii] God gracefully gives humans tears to express the longing common to humanity and call forth His presence in the midst of current suffering.




World religions almost universally view human tears as an acknowledgment of human suffering and longing for transcendent power in suffering. The Judeo-Christian tradition however demonstrates a unique view of God as sharing in suffering and expressing the shared suffering through tears. Nicholas Wolterstorff states, “The tears of God are the meaning of history.”[xlix] He continues, “Every act of evil extracts a tear form God, every plunge into anguish extracts a sob from God. But also the history of our world is the history of our deliverance together.”[l] Human tears universally express finitude and longing. The idea that an infinite and omnipotent God could cry raises several interesting theological challenges.


God’s Grief and Judgment in the Bible

The reality of Christian existence involves numerous tensions. God’s omnipresence conflicts with His hiddenness. God’s omnipotence conflicts with the reality that suffering exists even among the righteous. God’s transcendence and immanence conflict in human reason. Tears express the mystery of the conflicting tensions of God as He exists and as He appears to humans in the present. The Bible reveals part of the mystery of God’s complete existence and as He exists as a God involved in His creation. “God is revealed to us as the involved one already in Genesis 1:2 with his spirit brooding over the face of the waters.”[li] The tension between formlessness and creation evokes brooding in God. As in human longing, God’s longing appears from the start in God’s creative work.

God expresses grief over creation early in the biblical narrative. “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Gen. 6:6) God appears in the narrative as a God who “is disappointed and angry at the beings whom He has created but still is actually pained at their condition and possibility of the idea of hurting them.”[lii] God does not appear as a wrathful God but as a God who longs for relationship with humans who have rejected Him. Judgment of humans grieves God. The nature of human free will presents the possibility of a God who suffers in the face of rejection by His creation. God’s involvement with humans provides the possibility of divine suffering. The tears of God present a central theme in the ontology of creation. Jürgen Moltman states, “A God who cannot suffer is poorer than any human. For a God who is incapable of suffering is a being who cannot be involved.”[liii] The tension between God’s involvement with creation and His hiddenness from creation drives the suffering tears of God. Ellington writes, “For God to be both present and active in history would be to destroy the wicked without hope of repentance and to eliminate free will.”[liv] God painfully maintains some separation from rebellious humanity because His complete presence would destroy the object of His love. The tragedy of creation evokes the tears of God. His hiddenness causes His pain. “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (Isa. 45:15).

The Old Testament frequently points to God’s regret and repentance. The concept presents another aspect of God’s tears. Ellington writes that the terms relate to God’s lament and grief over the constraint necessary in His relationship with humans and in the loss of the relationship He desires.[lv] The Bible frequently uses the Hebrew term “hamah” to express God’s grief. The term is frequently translated as murmur, growl, groan, or roar.[lvi] An example of grief in tension with judgment expressed by God occurs in Jeremiah, “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord” (Jer. 31:20). God’s grief appears in the tension between transcendence and immanence that maintains some relationship with His creation while preventing the utter destruction of creation through His direct presence. God cries because of the necessary veil between Him and humans.

God addresses the tension by establishing covenants with His people. Within the boundaries of covenant God hopes to establish renewed relationship. Ellington observes, “By entering into a covenant, God chooses a closer relationship with his people, while at the same time surrendering somewhat of his freedom and opening himself to constraint and hurt.”[lvii] Those in covenant with God sadly still choose to violate God’s covenants. God reveals Himself to His people through covenants, but the covenant people choose to reject the relationship sought by God. In the metaphor of a marriage covenant, God accepts the risk of loving a creature with free will and finds the pain of rejection. Ellington points to the tears of God as the power for rebuilding relationship. He states,  “After the betrayal of adultery, Israel’s marriage can only be salvaged and rebuilt by the tears of God.”[lviii] God’s wrath towards humanity is restorative not punitive. Ellington continues, “Wrath that is born of pain carries with it the hope that the relationship can be repaired and continue. The cry of lament on the lips of God is a creative word…”[lix] God’s tears demonstrate His desire to restore relationship. They express the same longing as human tears.

The fact that God experiences emotions presents a mystery for further exploration. The mystery finds its revelation in the person of Christ. Biblically, “God suffers because God would be with us, and suffering is our condition.”[lx] Many traditional theologies emphasize the immutability of God at the expense of His emotions. The traditional assumption that emotions represent possibility conflicts with the idea of an eternal God who does not change. God in many views must transcend human emotion. An emotionless God, however, fails to be a living God dwelling with His creation. Joseph M. Hallman observes,  “To be absolutely at rest is to be dead. God is eternally alive and never at rest in the divine governance. Therefore God is not corrupted by emotions, but God is a living God precisely because of them.”[lxi] The tears of God point to a living God who longs to dwell in relationship with a rebellious people.

Jesus as the Expression of God’s Tears

Christian theology presents Jesus as the exact representation of God on Earth. The tears of Jesus therefore represent the tears of God. Jesus cries in John 11:35 as He stands outside Lazarus’ tomb facing human loss and death. Jesus weeps over the rebellion and coming destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). He cries out to God with “prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Heb. 5:7). Isaiah describes Him as “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Jesus stands in scripture as the bridge between man and God, and the bridge firmly rests on the shared tears of both God and man in the person of Jesus. Patrick Miller states, “The human lament on the lips of Jesus is one of the primary incarnational clues in all of scripture.”[lxii] Lament itself in Miller’s view is part of the work and person of Christ and the chief clue that “Christ died not simply as one of us but also as one for us, both with us and in our behalf.”[lxiii]

Greek influence on Christian thought left the church with many debates that distract from the core message that Jesus suffers with humanity. The mystery of the incarnation transcends Greek philosophy however and points to a God capable of suffering with and for humans. Hallman presents many early Christian debates on the nature of the incarnation in light of suffering in the person of Christ. The errors of Arius, Docetism, and the like represent attempts to explain suffering in the person of Christ in the framework of the Greek ideal of the impassability of God.[lxiv] Hallman concludes that contra Greek philosophy the paradox of the church’s theology results from the suffering and tears of God. He states, “In spite of the divine attributes of perfect changelessness and the incapacity to suffer, God’s divine Word did somehow suffer with us and for us.”[lxv] Hall observes that past the historical debates of homoousios and theotokos lies the truth that “God identifies with humanity.”[lxvi] Hallman explains the mystery by stating that the incarnational suffering of Christ involve a change of quality (morphē) that was a proslēpsis or addition to rather than a metabolē or transformation of nature.[lxvii] In other words, the tears of Jesus and the emotion of God add to His nature rather than transform His nature. God has, through His relationship with humans, demonstrated perfect love through the possibility and genuine expression of grief over the loss of human fellowship. The suffering of Christ in a unique way bridges the gap between fallen humanity and a perfect God as fallen humanity finds forgiveness through a perfect God who experiences the emotion of loss.

Liberation theology addresses human suffering. In liberation Christology “The hermeneutical key to understanding the death of Jesus is the identification of the Crucified One with the crucified peoples.”[lxviii] A God who cries with His people forms an essential concept to the oppressed people of liberation theology. Sammy Alfaro continues,

On the cross, the Jesus of history reveals a suffering God who fulfills his purposes in history through weakness and love, and not retribution and force. Through the cross, God participates in the suffering of the world and it is this act of solidarity that the crucified peoples can find a hope for the future. The hope for the crucified peoples is faith in the resurrection of the crucified One.[lxix]


Unlike triumphalist western theology, the essential nature of many theologies in oppressed culture forms around the shared suffering and tears of Christ. Latin American feminine Mujerista theology establishes a Christology that emphasizes shared suffering in the “kin-dom” of God, the “Familia de Dios.” Mujerista Christology focuses on the compassionate suffering Brother, the faithful Companion of the suffering. Latinos frequently merge Jesus’ name into “Jesucristo” a blending of the human Jesus and the anointed Christ that emphasizes daily walking with the suffering. God appears as both human and divine sufferer.[lxx] The Roman Catholic emphasis on the suffering Christ on the crucifix reminds followers of Christ’s fellowship in suffering.

God shares human emotion and cries with humanity. Jesus appears as the ultimate expression of God’s desire for relationship with humans. Ellington observes, “The death of the impassable and passionless God has made room for a God who raises others from the dead, but only after he himself has laid down and died.”[lxxi] The Cross “makes suffering integral to the divine nature.”[lxxii] Jesus represents both the answer of God to human tears and the response of God to His own tears. Humans, like Job, cry out for answers and instead find the Person of Christ. Douglas John Hall writes, “The only satisfying answer is the one given to Job—the answer that is no answer but is the presence of the Answerer. It does not matter that the Answerer brings more questions than answers; for the answer is not the words as such but the living Word—the Presence itself.”[lxxiii] Jesus answers human tears by entering human suffering. Calvin Miller writes, “Jesus did not leave the world a get-well card, he got sick with it. He didn’t exempt himself from the pain he would later have to heal. He is in this hellish life with us, and further has guaranteed that his victory over all things negative has foreshadowed and guaranteed our own ultimate victory.”[lxxiv] Jesus wept with the mourners outside Lazarus’ tomb, He wept over Jerusalem, He wept over the cross, and He weeps with those who weep today.

The Relational Nature of Tears

Platonism and Aristotelian thinking influenced early Christianity in its concept of the “unmoved mover.” An omnipotent god could not actually suffer as the deity could simply address the cause of suffering. A suffering deity implies a deity less than fully god, as the deity is less than omnipotent. Greek thinking stresses the omnipotence of God at the expense of the omnipresence of God. To the Greek mind, a god must demonstrate infinite transcendence and remain untouched by humanity or emotions as an expression of the god’s limitless power. In human grief, Greek thinking creates tensions and problems. Tears on the face of an omnipotent God who could alleviate the suffering and longing causing the tears leaves the suffering person facing a God who cruelly will not address the suffering. The idea of shared tears presents either a God who is less than omnipotent, cruel, or in the case of Christianity a God who desires omnipresence more than omnipotence. God desires to know humans and be known by humans through shared presence. Moltmann observes, “A God who is only omnipotent is in himself an incomplete being, for he cannot experience helplessness and powerlessness…A man who experiences helplessness, a man who suffers because he loves, a man who can die, is therefore a richer being than an omnipotent God who cannot suffer, cannot love, and cannot die.”[lxxv] When God does not powerfully address human suffering, He seeks to be known in the situation. He remains omnipresent in that He remains present in the suffering as a fellow sufferer. The attributes of omnipresence and omnipotence can at times in this world create a mystery of mutually exclusivity.

The Greek concept of knowing appears primarily in the word “ginoskein” which means to stand back from something or someone and know it objectively.[lxxvi] The primary Hebrew concept of knowing stands in contrast to the Greek concept. The Hebrew word “yada” expresses knowing through experience or relationship.[lxxvii] To the Greek mind and much of contemporary society knowing God equates with knowing about God. God’s desire to know humanity proves absurd to the Greek mind, as He would already know all about any individual. His omniscience compromises His omnipresence. Hebrew thought presents a God who wants to know humans in a voluntary relationship. He wants to experience life together with His creation. Suffering and tears do not indicate a weak God but a relational God. Tears shared between God and humans lead to deeper relationship. Suffering and tears therefore fulfill the purpose of addressing both human and divine longing for relational wholeness. Paul addresses the aspect of shared suffering with God as relational wholeness. He writes, “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).

Tears in Christian theology place God, humans, and the relationship between the two in the mysterious place of living theology rather than analytical and dogmatic theology. The answer to the problem of God’s tears appears in shared suffering rather than triumphalist dogma that fails to explain human reality. God desires relationship so much that He allows the object of His relational desire to suffer, and He desires to enter the suffering with His creation. Ellington writes, “It is the nature of belief to be constructive, it is the nature of suffering and loss to prevent those constructs from becoming monolithic. And it is through the practice of lament that the fluidity and flexibility of our beliefs are maintained.”[lxxviii] Tears keep theology from becoming an academic science. No matter how objectively the theologian approaches God he or she encounters the subjective reality of pain and loss that drives him or her to shared tears with God. A hermeneutic of tears requires a living theology that stresses encounter. Robby Waddell observes, “A Pentecostal theological hermeneutic has less to do with Greek philosophy than with theophany, a divine encounter, a revelation, an experience with the living God.”[lxxix] Ellington concludes, “When we lift the platonic veil, we find a God who willingly risks relationship, with all its awkwardness and uncertainty.”[lxxx] God lays aside omnipotence for omnipresence in the suffering of humanity. God enters into human suffering and longs for relationship with those He has allowed to rebel. God cries with humanity.



Pentecostalism rose from the margins of society and still finds much of its growth among the suffering and marginalized. Unlike liberation theology, which simply addressed the presence of God alongside human suffering, Pentecostalism both placed God alongside suffering and promised power for alleviating the condition of humanity in the Holy Spirit. Pentecostalism firmly addresses the ambiguities of life with the active presence of God. It addresses the ambiguity of human suffering and God’s presence and the mysterious balance between omnipotence and omnipresence. Andrew Davies observes, “Pentecostalism requires a God on the loose, involving himself with the fine details of our earthly existence and actively transforming lives. I think Pentecostal theology, in both its systematic and more popular forms, requires a degree of uncertainty.”[lxxxi] North American Pentecostalism, however, has often embraced Evangelical thought and promoted pragmatic results rather than relational wholeness. The upward mobility of North American Pentecostals may present the greatest danger to a message that balances God’s presence with God’s power to the weeping margins.

Tears and glossolalia share some common linguistic characteristics. Tears are a unique form of linguistics. They communicate complex meaning and can be interpreted. The emotional nature of tears suggests a communication theory that transcends spoken language. Elaine Scarry observes,  “To witness the moment when pain causes a reversion to the pre-language of cries and groans is to witness the destruction of language; but conversely, to be present when a person moves up out of that pre-language and projects the facts of sentience into speech is almost to have been permitted to be present at the birth of language itself.”[lxxxii] John Stratton Hawley observes that tears “communicate precisely because they are not rhetorical strategies.”[lxxxiii] To Medieval Christians tears formed a “para-language…distinguished as a mysterious yet meaningful ‘language’ that transcends words and gestures.”[lxxxiv] Similar to glossolalia in the Early Church or in current Pentecostalism, tears express worship and longing transcending speech. In classical Pentecostalism altar services involved a complex interchange between tears, glossolalia, and celebration. Tears and glossolalia represent longing for something more than currently experienced, and both point to the hope of restored relationship.

The issue of subsequence, a common debate in Spirit baptism, also appears in historical theologies of tears. The Eastern Orthodox tradition generally viewed tears as a “second baptism.” The issue of tears in Eastern Orthodox tradition raises a question similar to the issue of subsequence in Pentecostal doctrine. Bishop Kallistos Ware asks concerning tears in the Eastern Orthodox tradition,  “Does this second baptism of tears confer a new grace, distinct from the grace bestowed through sacramental baptism in the font, or is the grace of the second baptism simply the realization and fulfillment of the grace originally received in sacramental baptism?”[lxxxv] Through the lens of tears the issue for both Eastern Orthodox criers and Pentecostals might be addressed. Tears express a deeper longing for something not currently experienced. On Earth, the longing for completeness remains. The religious seeker looks for wholeness in a deeper encounter with God. In tears and in glossolalia, humans acknowledge frailty and seek God. The crier admits human weakness and summons the transcendent God. Crying and tongues both acknowledge God’s continued work in humans and the need for His presence. Tongues and crying may form from the same human needs and may both lead to the same deepened relationship with God. The question of why a Christian would cry and why a Christian should seek a heavenly language may both come from the same human longing for God and from God’s longing for human relationship.



Tears function as a gift operating within the church. Albert Y. Hsu observes, “In lament our raw emotions are ordered, disciplined, and transformed.”[lxxxvi] Tears express reality within a community. Ellington writes, “Prayers of lament function to adjudicate the tension created between beliefs about God and experiences of God’s silence and abandonment that call those beliefs into question.”[lxxxvii] He continues, “Lament declares boldly that everything is not all right, that God has not delivered, and that he has hidden his face from his people.”[lxxxviii] Tears lead the church to acknowledge the reality of its place between God’s promised future and present reality. The emotionalism of tears presents difficult to explain reality. The subjective breaks through the objective illusion.

Tears secondly function to call out to God. When emotional tears move past fear and hurt they move toward prayers of lament that turn the crier toward the God who joins the crier in his or her tears. Tears summon the gods in most religions, and in Christianity they likewise turn the crier towards God and allow the crier to experience God through shared tears. Hsu writes, “Lament also focuses our grief in the proper direction—it turns us toward God.”[lxxxix] In God’s presence tears become the relational bridge between the crier and God in spite of the fact that God chooses not to address the crier’s petition with His power. He addresses the petition of the crier with His presence before His power. Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, “My pain over my son’s death is shared by his pain over my son’s death. And, yes, I share in his pain over his son’s death.”[xc] Tears mingle human and divine pain. Wolterstorff continues, “Through the prism of my tears I have seen a suffering God.”[xci] Without the tears of loss a person cannot encounter the God who suffers.

Tears finally initiate a change process in the crier. In lamenting a loss, the possibility of newness appears. Ellington writes, “To risk both the loss of the old and the uncertainty of the new requires an act of faith and courage; it requires the act of lament.”[xcii] Ellington calls lament “risky” because it “abandons all pretense of excuse, denial, or cover-ups.”[xciii] Lament therefore leaves the old behind and seeks the new. All change requires lament. Ellington concludes, “The language of lament does that which is impossible for ordinary language; it destroys one world while laying the groundwork for the birth of another.”[xciv]

The Church renews through acknowledging present realities, calling to God for His presence and power in the tension between reality and vision, and managing the change process. Tears form an essential part of each step in renewal for individuals and for the church.

Tears and Worship

Tears call God alongside suffering. As a grace to believers they, like tongues, can function to promote worship in the church community. The church worships when it acknowledges realities and shares God’s suffering. Worshippers must worship in Spirit and truth. Western Christianity, however tends to favor the upbeat expressions of worship that tend to deny the present reality of many struggling somewhere in the faith journey. The practice of shared suffering with humans and God in a worship setting presents many possibilities for renewal. Hall writes, “Suffering is necessary for the body of Christ—and is one indispensable mark of its authenticity—because there is still suffering in God’s beloved world, and God would still be involved in it.”[xcv] Perhaps, the traditional liturgical expressions of confession and acknowledgment that we as humans have failed to live in God’s standards provide an expression of lament that could reenergize worship. The celebration so often sought in North American churches proves incomplete without the process of shared lament as a community and seeking God’s presence alongside congregational tears. Celebration comes after lament. Nicholas Wolterstorff writes,

Sometimes when the cry is intense, there emerges a radiance which elsewhere seldom appears: a glow of courage, of love, of insight, of selflessness, of faith. In that radiance we see best what humanity was meant to be. That the radiance emerges from acquaintance with grief is a blessing to others is familiar, though perplexing: How can we treasure the radiance while struggling against what brought it about?[xcvi]

Tears and Fellowship

Tears function in Psychology as a “social lubricant” that helps to “ensure the smooth functioning of community by helping people communicate.”[xcvii] Tears often communicate much clearer than words, and they tend to draw observers into the grief of the crier. Tears within the church function to draw people into shared humanity and shared searching for God’s presence in the tears. They serve to acknowledge the common journey and common hope felt by all humans. They transcend church programs that help suffering people and simply call people to share the suffering. Stanley Hauerwas observes that Christians have no “solution” to the problem of suffering; they have “a community of care that has made it possible for them to absorb the destructive terror of evil that constantly threatens to destroy all human relations.”[xcviii]

Tears and Discipleship

Repentance precedes discipleship. Repentance involves sorrow over past transgressions. Often the church functions more as an excuse maker for past errors as it tries to place blame on a person’s past or social environment. The church in this case functions more like a psychologist than a community of faith. At the other extreme appears the tendency towards cheap grace that fails to acknowledge the reality of broke humanity and places salvation in terms of contractual obligation on the part of God rather than on relationship. Relationship involves ambiguities and growth. Both result in sorrow over the tensions and the failings of the past. Tears form an essential part of the discipleship process. Ellington writes,  “Until pain is exposed and grief expressed, there can be no move toward renewal.”[xcix] He continues, “Experiences of suffering are a crucial part of our maturation both as human beings and as covenant partners with God.”[c]

Relationship with God and other believers produces discipleship. The community of discipleship lives as more than simply recipients of grace. The community lives as ones who look together to God for relationship that actively transforms. Hall writes,

It is possible, however, to err also on the side of the principle of differentiation, and to make Christ so transcendent, so discontinuous with his “body,” that Christians come to conceive themselves as recipients of grace rather than participants in grace…It is the danger precisely of  “cheap grace”—grace as theory, as principle, as doctrine: a grace which not only implies no inherent praxis but functions exactly to discourage participation.[ci]


The tears of the faith community allow it to live in the delicate balance of relationship that acknowledges past sin but seeks renewal.

Tears and Mission

Alister McGrath identifies six points of contact between the gospel and culture: a sense of unsatisfied longing, human rationality, the ordering of the world, human morality, existential anxiety, and the awareness of finitude and mortality.[cii] Triumphalism and fundamentalism emphasize the separation of the church from its world. Tears, however, allow the church to share the suffering of the world’s sense of longing, existential anxiety, and awareness of finitude and mortality. The world cries and will see God best in the church unafraid to reflect God’s tears for the world in its practice. Lament draws the outsider into the presence of the God who weeps with them. The church has often focused on solving the world’s problems in triumphal proclamation of God’s power when in many cases the church simply needs to come alongside the world’s tears and be present in the tears. The church has often avoided hurt in society for which it has no pragmatic solution. Evangelism to the margins requires boldly entering into other’s suffering and allowing the sufferer to experience the God who cries with them in the presence of the church.



The church that understand the relational nature of tears will be better equipped to minister to the suffering persons in its community. The Christian that understands tears will also be better able to connect with God when the time comes for their own tears. This paper has explored some primary themes related to tears. Further exploration on the primary theological conflicts related to God’s tears and further work in applying the theology to church practice would be beneficial to the church community. While I did not specifically deal with suffering and tears, further research could be done to the specific issues related to suffering and evil as they relate to the human and divine response of crying. This paper begins an exploration of the phenomenon of tears and will equip readers with basics for the certain time in their future when their own tears overwhelm their thinking.




Alfaro, Sammy. Divino Compañero: Toward a Hispanic Pentecostal Christology. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2010.

Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. “Pray with Tears and Your Request Will Find a Hearing: On the Iconology of the Magdalene’s Tears.” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, 201-228. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).

Basser, Herbert W. “A Love for All Seasons: Weeping in Jewish Sources.” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, 178-198. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. New York: The Free Press, 1973.

Baker, Warren, ed. The Complete Word Study Old Testament (Chattanooga; AMG, 1994), 2455.

Chittick, William C. “Weeping in Classical Sufism.” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, 132-144. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Collier, Lorna. “Why We Cry: New Research is Opening Eyes to the Psychology of Tears.” Monitor on Psychology. February 2014.

Davies, Andrew. “What Does it Mean to Read the Bible as a Pentecostal?” in Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader. Edited by Lee Roy Martin, 249-262. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013.


Duff, Nancy J. “Recovering Lamentation as a Practice in the Church.” in Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square. Edited by Sally A. Brown and Patrick D. Miller, 3-14. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004.

Ebersole, Gary L. “The Poetics and Politics of Ritualized Weeping in Early and Medieval Japan.” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, 25-52. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Ellington, Scott A. Risking Truth: Reshaping the World through Prayers of Lament. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2008.


Friedman, Richard Elliott. The Hidden Face of God. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996.

Hall, Douglas John. God and Human Suffering: An Exercise in the Theology of the Cross. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986.


Hallman, Joseph M. The Descent of God: Divine Suffering in History and Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991.


Hauerwas, Stanley. Naming the Silences: God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.

Hawley, John Stratton. “The Gopīs’ Tears.” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, 94-111. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Hsu, Albert Y. Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One’s Search for Comfort, Answers, and Hope. Downers Grove, IVP, 2002.

Isasi-Díaz, Ada María. “Christ in Mujerista Theology.” In Thinking of Christ: Proclamation, Explanation, Meaning. Edited by Tatha Wiley, 157-176. New York: Continuum, 2003.


Johns, Jackie David and Cheryl Bridges Johns. “Yielding to the Spirit: A Pentecostal Approach to Group Bible Study.” in Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader. Edited by Lee Roy Martin, 33-56. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. New York: Scribner, 2005.

Lynch, Gay Ord Pollock. “Why Do Your Eyes Not Run Like a River?: Ritual Tears in Ancient and Modern Greek Funerary Traditions.” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, 67-82. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.


McGrath, Alister. Bridge-Building: Effective Christian Apologetics. Leicester, England: IVP, 1992.


Miller, Calvin. Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.


Miller, Patrick D. “Heaven’s Prisoners: The Lament as Christian Prayer.” in Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square. Edited by Sally A. Brown and Patrick D. Miller, 15-26. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.

O’Conner, Kathleen. The Wisdom Literature. Wilmington, DE: Glazier, 1988.


Patton, Kimberley Christine and John Stratton Hawley. Introduction to Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, 1-23. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.


Platt, Nancy Van Dyke and Chilton R. Knudsen. So You Think You Don’t Know One?: Addiction and Recovery in Clergy and Congregations. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 2010.


Read, Kay Almere. “Productive Tears: Weeping Speech, Water, and the Underworld in the Mexica Tradition.” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, 52-66. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman, III. “Tears” in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 845-847. Downers Grove: IVP, 1998.


Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York: Oxford, 1985.


VanGemeren, Willem A. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1997.

Van Vught, Mark. “Why Only Humans Weep: The Science Behind Our Tears.” Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/naturally-selected/201305/why-only-humans-weep-the-science-behind-our-tears (accessed May 12, 2014).

Waddell, Robby. “Hearing what the Spirit Says to the Churches: Profile of a Pentecostal Reader of the Apocolypse.” In Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader. Edited by Lee Roy Martin, 171-203. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013.

Ware, Bishop Kallistos. “An Obscure Matter: The Mystery of Tears in Orthodox Spirituality.” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination, 242-254. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Lament for a Son. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.

Zodhiates, Spiros, ed. The Complete Word Study New Testament. Chattanooga; AMG, 1991.
















[i] Kimberley Christine Patton and John Stratton Hawley, Introduction to Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 1.

[ii] Mark Van Vught, “Why Only Humans Weep: The Science Behind Our Tears,” Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/naturally-selected/201305/why-only-humans-weep-the-science-behind-our-tears (accessed May 12, 2014).

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss (New York: Scribner, 2005), 42.

[v] Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: The Free Press, 1973), 187.

[vi] Kübler-Ross, 45.

[vii] Patton and Hawley, 1.

[viii] Herbert W. Basser, “A Love for All Seasons: Weeping in Jewish Sources,” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 184.

[ix] Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman, III, “Tears” in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove: IVP, 1998), 845.

[x] Basser, 180.

[xi] Ibid., 193.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Nancy Van Dyke Platt and Chilton R. Knudsen, So You Think You Don’t Know One?: Addiction and Recovery in Clergy and Congregations, Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 2010, 34.

[xiv] Gary L. Ebersole, “The Poetics and Politics of Ritualized Weeping in Early and Medieval Japan” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 41.

[xv] Gay Ord Pollock Lynch, “Why Do Your Eyes Not Run Like a River?: Ritual Tears in Ancient and Modern Greek Funerary Traditions,” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 77.

[xvi] Kay Almere Read, “Productive Tears: Weeping Speech, Water, and the Underworld in the Mexica Tradition,” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 52-53.

[xvii] John Stratton Hawley, “The Gopīs’ Tears” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 94-95.

[xviii] Patton and Hawley, 19.

[xix] William C. Chittick, “Weeping in Classical Sufism,” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 138.

[xx] Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, “Pray with Tears and Your Request Will Find a Hearing: On the Iconology of the Magdalene’s Tears,” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 203.

[xxi] Ibid., 205.

[xxii] Bishop Kallistos Ware, “An Obscure Matter: The Mystery of Tears in Orthodox Spirituality,” in Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 243.

[xxiii] Apostolos-Cappadona, 205.

[xxiv] Ibid., 206.

[xxv] Douglas John Hall, God and Human Suffering: An Exercise in the Theology of the Cross (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986), 21.

[xxvi] Ibid., 38.

[xxvii] Ibid., 126.

[xxviii] Ibid., 45.

[xxix] Ibid., 46.

[xxx] Apostolos-Cappadona, 203.

[xxxi] Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman, III, 846.

[xxxii] Warren Baker, ed. The Complete Word Study Old Testament (Chattanooga; AMG, 1994), 2455.

[xxxiii] Willem A. VanGemeren, New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1997), 1:975.

[xxxiv] Spiros Zodhiates, ed., The Complete Word Study New Testament (Chattanooga; AMG, 1991), 1250.

[xxxv] Hall, 54-55.

[xxxvi] Ibid., 60.

[xxxvii] All Scripture unless otherwise noted is from the English Standard Version.

[xxxviii] Patrick D. Miller, “Heaven’s Prisoners: The Lament as Christian Prayer,” in Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square, eds. Sally A. Brown and Patrick D. Miller (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004), 16.

[xxxix] Ibid.

[xl] Kathleen O’Conner. The Wisdom Literature (Wilmington, DE: Glazier, 1988), 104.

[xli] Scott A. Ellington, Risking Truth: Reshaping the World through Prayers of Lament (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2008), 113.

[xlii] Hall, 62.

[xliii] Ibid.

[xliv] Ellington, 118.

[xlv] Nancy J. Duff, Recovering Lamentation as a Practice in the Church,” in Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square, eds. Sally A. Brown and Patrick D. Miller (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004), 4.

[xlvi] Patton and Hawley, 14.

[xlvii] Miller, 16.

[xlviii] Ibid.

[xlix] Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 90.

[l] Ibid., 91.

[li] Ellington, 41.

[lii] Richard Elliott Friedman, The Hidden Face of God (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996), 104.

[liii] Jürgen Moltman, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 222.

[liv] Ellington, 18.

[lv] Ibid., 42-43.

[lvi] Ibid., 44.

[lvii] Ibid., 41.

[lviii] Ibid., 47.

[lix] Ibid.

[lx] Hall, 117.

[lxi] Joseph M. Hallman, The Descent of God: Divine Suffering in History and Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 69.

[lxii] Miller, 20.

[lxiii] Ibid., 21.

[lxiv] Hallman, 84.

[lxv] Ibid., 78.

[lxvi] Hall, 108.

[lxvii] Hallman, 98.

[lxviii] Sammy Alfaro, Divino Compañero: Toward a Hispanic Pentecostal Christology (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2010), 105.

[lxix] Ibid.

[lxx] Ada María Isasi-Díaz, “Christ in Mujerista Theology,” In Thinking of Christ: Proclamation, Explanation, Meaning, ed. Tatha Wiley (New York: Continuum, 2003), 159.

[lxxi] Ellington, 40.

[lxxii] Ibid., 34.

[lxxiii] Hall, 118.

[lxxiv] Calvin Miller, Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 76.

[lxxv] Moltmann, 223.

[lxxvi] Jackie David Johns and Cheryl Bridges Johns, “Yielding to the Spirit: A Pentecostal Approach to Group Bible Study,” in Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader, ed. Lee Roy Martin (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013), 36.

[lxxvii] Ibid., 35.

[lxxviii] Ellington, 23.

[lxxix] Robby Waddell, “Hearing what the Spirit Says to the Churches: Profile of a Pentecostal Reader of the Apocolypse,” In Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader, ed. Lee Roy Martin (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013), 184.

[lxxx] Ellington, 40.

[lxxxi] Andrew Davies, “What Does it Mean to Read the Bible as a Pentecostal?” in Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader, ed. Lee Roy Martin (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2013), 252.

[lxxxii] Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (New York: Oxford, 1985), 6.

[lxxxiii] Hawley, 106.

[lxxxiv] Apostolos-Cappadona, 203.

[lxxxv] Ware, 251.

[lxxxvi] Albert Y. Hsu, Grieving a suicide: A Loved One’s Search for Comfort, Answers, and Hope (Downers Grove, IVP, 2002), 45.

[lxxxvii] Ellington, xiii.

[lxxxviii] Ibid., 3.

[lxxxix] Hsu, 45.

[xc] Wolterstorff, 67.

[xci] Ibid., 81.

[xcii] Ellington, xii.

[xciii] Ibid., 3.

[xciv] Ibid., 26.

[xcv] Hall, 140.

[xcvi] Wolterstorff, 96.

[xcvii] Lorna Collier, “Why We Cry: New Research is Opening Eyes to the Psychology of Tears,” Monitor on Psychology, February 2014, 47.

[xcviii] Stanley Hauerwas, Naming the Silences: God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 53.

[xcix] Ellington, 46.

[c] Ibid., 65.

[ci] Hall, 139.

[cii] Alister McGrath, Bridge-Building: Effective Christian Apologetics (Leicester, England: IVP, 1992), 51-73.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s