One of the great Motown hits of the 1960s is the Smokey Robinson song, “The Tracks of My Tears.” Three of the four passages we’ll encounter this week mention weeping in one way or another, and the fourth alludes to suffering. As we’ll see, however, the reasons for these tears are varied. It may help us to follow “the tracks of our tears,” to consider the different sources of our sorrows. Even more important than understanding the source of our tears, however, is discerning their destination. Where might God lead us through the different kinds of sorrow we encounter?
In Lamentations 1, we meet tears of loss. The writer poignantly describes a ruined Jerusalem; once the prosperous center of Israel’s life but now a ghost town “after . . . Judah has gone into exile” (niv). It seems likely that this poem describes Jerusalem after it has fallen to Babylonia in 586 bce, carrying its leading citizens into exile. What intensifies Israel’s mourning is that this exile comes as the consequence of her sin. These are not only tears of loss, then, but tears of regret.
These kinds of tears represent both a danger and an opportunity. Tears of regret may simply cause us to long for the good times long gone, but that would be a mistake. Tears of regret are meant to wash away illusion. The poet now recognizes that the false friends who filled Israel’s streets back when times were good have abandoned her. These tears of loss and regret are, above all, tears of repentance, a gift that clears away the false promises of our self-centered loves and misplaced hopes and invites us to start again.
Lord, we give you our regrets. Do not let our tears lead us back into nostalgia or second-guessing but forward, with our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and his kingdom. Amen.
Moving from the sadness of Lamentations 1 to the thanksgiving prayer of 2 Timothy 1 is to move from total darkness to “the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abol- ished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Lamentations 1 and Psalm 137 are both painful laments from the vantage point of the exile. Both laments drama- tize the expression of honest pain, which offers to God anger as well as grief. In contrast, the New Testament texts speak of faith. The writer of the epistle delights in Timothy’s heritage of faith, nurtured by mother and grandmother and empowered by divine gifts of love and self-discipline. But it is a heritage that must put itself at risk for the sake of the gospel and not inch in the face of inevitable suffering. The disciples ask Jesus for “more” faith, only to be told that faith cannot be quanti ed.
• Read Lamentations 1:1-6. When have your tears of regret washed away illusion? How do you begin again after repen- tance?
• Read Psalm 137. Recall a time when someone angered you. How did you deal with your anger?
• Read 2 Timothy 1:1-14. The author states that when we shed tears for another person we “testify to our profound connect- edness to others.” When in your life have you shed tears for the suffering of another?
• Read Luke 17:5-10. How do you experience gratitude even as you live with the demands of the Christian life?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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