The Lost Art of Weeping

by Andy Wood on March 23, 2016

in Ability, Five LV Laws, Insight, Leadership, LV Cycle, Waiting

Clasped hands on troubled man

It was the revival that almost never was.  It took place in New York City, back in the late 1800s.  By then the Salvation Army, under the leadership of William Booth in England, was becoming a global force.  Two young officers had been dispatched to the U.S. to establish a work in New York, and nothing was working. Frustrated and tired, facing nothing but hostility and opposition, they sent a telegram to “the General,” requesting that he close the mission.

They received a two-word reply:  “TRY TEARS.”

They did.

They called on the heart of God until the heart of God for a lost city started calling back. And in the wake of two men weeping over the city a great revival took place there.

I was reminded of that story this morning after hearing some classroom presentations yesterday on great biblical leaders. I noticed a pattern…

  • Joseph became so tenderhearted as he advanced further and further in leadership, he readily and openly wept over the restoration of his family.
  • Jeremiah, known as the “weeping prophet” was powerfully used by God during a dark time in Israel’s history.
  • Nehemiah wept over a city he had never visited – praying for four months for a chance to be used by God to restore a place that had been broken apart.
  • David had such a connection to the heart of God that he readily wept – as acts of both worship and warfare.
  • Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem.

All of these examples, of course, were men who stand to this day in defiance of that whole “grown men don’t cry” drivel.

A Timely Reminder

I think all this for me is a timely reminder. Maybe it is for you, too.

Look around.  Turn off the news, be still for a minute, and listen.  As I write this, just yesterday yet another terrorist attack took place in yet another place, killing and injuring yet more innocent people.  And here it came…

  • The latest round of “our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”
  • Let’s show the terrorists that they haven’t affected us one bit… so the president proceeds to attend the baseball game in Cuba and everybody who doesn’t like the president hollers in outrage and anger about it.
  • Political candidates receive a new load of ammunition to leverage the anger and fear of people who have the growing sense that the next time it could be them.
  • But beyond all that, increasingly, there is a sense of numbness. Or perhaps helpless inevitability.
  • The solutions? All political, it seems.  Or military.  Or economic.  Let’s build a wall. Let’s tear down the walls.  Let’s equalize everybody’s income. Let’s educate people more with Common Core. Let’s do away with Common Core. Let’s enforce sanctions against our enemies. Let’s remove sanctions from our enemies.  And if all of that has started sounding to you like a bunch of people arguing over how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, you are not alone.

What’s Missing?

So on a day when the smoke is still clouding the view in Brussels, I’m sitting there being reminded of leaders who got unprecedented things done – by praying.

And weeping.

And praying some more.

And to be honest, a part of me looks at that as all rather quaint.  And to be painfully honest, I write this with no tears in my own eyes.

There is plenty to rail at.  There is plenty to be angry about.  There is plenty to get all up in arms (literally) about.  But in classic human nature fashion, from our perspective, if it’s to be, it’s up to me.  We can build our own towers to heaven.  We can fix our own problems. We can be our own redeemers.  We must not, in times of crisis, act weak. And nothing speaks of weakness more than asking some god somewhere to fix this… especially if you’re crying like a schoolgirl about it.

Well At Least It’s Different at the Church House, Right?

Maybe.

Or maybe not.

I’m writing this as an American Christian.  And all I can describe is what I hear and see.  When I listen to American Christians talk these days, mostly what I hear are American Republicans or American Democrats.  Or American pro-Trumps or American anti-Trumps. Or American anti-Hillarys. (Sorry… haven’t met any American Christian pro-Hillarys, though I’m sure they’re out there.)

I hear more angst about what presidential candidates (or their supporters) are doing than what God is doing or not doing.  And in that context, I see no difference between American Christians and any other group.

Try tears?  Why, for God’s sake? I’m too busy counting convention delegates.  Or watching oil prices and the stock market. Or arguing with somebody about immigration.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Drill down into the recesses of the human heart (a potential scary ride) and what you’ll find at its core is really very simple…

We just want to be happy.

Not “happy” in the empty, vain, fleeting sense of the word, but deeply fulfilled.  Satisfied.  Joyful.

What makes us different person-to-person, culture-to-culture, age-to-age are the paths we follow in search of that elusive happiness.  But whatever path we follow, we establish rules.

What does it take to make you happy?  Your heart has an answer to that question. It may be the wrong answer. Or a vain one. It could be a highly personal one or a completely unselfish one. It may have something to do with money, pleasure, or power – those are the world’s standbys.  But there is an answer somewhere.

What Makes This Generation Different?

I believe that in this generation, perhaps more than any other, we as a culture have made being comfortable the supreme definition of happiness or fulfillment.  Disagree? Fine – tell me something that drives us more or creates more of a reaction when we don’t have it.

In other words, it’s all about me.

Try tears?  Why?  I’m still doing ok. I still have my job(s), my family is generally ok, my life is generally ok.  If it isn’t, and I can’t fix it myself or get the government to, maybe then I’ll yank the emergency cord and call on God.

And that is what makes those knee-walking weepers in the Bible seem so out of touch.  If people or a city or a nation or the Kingdom found itself under attack or in disarray, their hearts broke! Their knees bent.  Their cries to heaven grew desperate to the point of tears. The same is true in history…

“Give me Scotland or I die!” cried a desperate John Knox. Of him Mary Queen of Scots said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of England.”

Oh God, the sin of this city… it’s breaking my heart,” prayed Samuel Hadley.  In 20 years over 75,000 people saw their lives changed “from the guttermost to the uttermost.”

Try tears.

The problem in many contemporary Christian circles is that we have not made the conversion of the lost, the advance of the Gospel, or the transformation of the culture part of our strategy for a fulfilled life. The world around us, for the most part, can go to hell and we can still be happy.

That, my friend, is a problem. And no election, no policy, no army, and no politician can fix it.  I’ll give the late Keith Green the final word.

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me
 
But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your blood.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Martha Orlando March 24, 2016 at 6:47 am

Ready for the tears to flow . . .
Blessings, Andy!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Party Crasher!

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