The Prayerful Song of Emotional Tears
Crying is a universal language that can communicate sadness, grief, anger, or even joy. In this writing, I would like to take a more microscopic look at the underlying language of tears and present the possibility that they can carry a much more specific message in them. As we shall see, tears can express our deepest needs and emotional experiences in the form of a liquid prayer.
The Science of Tears
Science has made valuable discoveries concerning the chemistry of tears, one of them being that emotional tears and irritant tears are different? According to Jerry Bergman at "Answers In Genesis," there is a 25% higher content of albumin protein in emotional tears.1 The protein in our emotional tears and the amino acids they are made up of have much to say, as we shall see.
God Responds to Our Need
Tears contain three types of hormone-based proteins. The first one is called prolactin and is most commonly associated with breast milk production. When a baby cries, it triggers a hormone that causes the mother's breasts to fill immediately in response to the baby's need.
So it is with God, who reveals Himself in the Bible as El Shaddai. This particular name means the all-sufficient God. In Hebrew, the root word of "Shaddai" is "Shad" and is a word that connects to the idea of the sufficiency of breastfeeding. A baby needs absolutely nothing besides breastmilk.
The biological illustration is powerful. When we cry to the Lord, it signals God's response to provide for our needs. The maternal love for a child and her desire to comfort and provide is depicted with this particular protein.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He delivered them out of their distresses.
And He led them forth by the right way,
That they might go to a city for a dwelling place.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
— Psalm 107:6-9
The second protein-based hormone is Adrenocorticotropic hormone, otherwise known as ACTH. According to Wikipedia, ACTH is a type of diagnostic and medication agent. Our tears contain a diagnostic agent and a prescription for cortisol, a natural steroid emitted to strengthen many of our body systems when under stress.
In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul.
— Psalm 138:3
The third protein-based hormone found in tears is Leu-enkephalin and is considered a natural pain killer.
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning . . .
. . . You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
— Psalm 30:5,11-12
Protein Sound Identification
To break this down even a little further—Proteins are made up of amino acids, which lead us to our next discovery about tears.
"National Geographic" featured an article in 2005 that described how scientists assigned musical notes to the amino acids in tear proteins for identification. By turning the amino acids into notes, they were able to comprehend each protein's unique structure by the song that was played by them. The song was based on the sequence of each acid's assigned note.2 The hearing of its musical interpretation revealed 2 What they were unable to interpret previously.
As it applies to tears—we could apply this—when we cry out to God, it produces a song based on a particular sequence of amino acids expressed in our tears' proteins. The arrangement enables God to hear the unique structure of our pain, which could not be seen, communicated, or shown in any other way?
Anne Murchison quotes:
"Many Hebrew words for grieving, weeping and lamentation actually mean “to distill”, which means to “separate and change from one substance to another” 3
Could the protein in our tears be converted and distilled (lifted to God) and changed (purified) to a language that God can feel and comprehend.
Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our infirmities: For we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
— Romans 8:26
Many times when we are in distress, we are painfully aware that no one on the planet could understand our unique situation or discomfort. Still, we can always know that God does completely understand and care in the most helpful ways, quite possibly by the song in our tears.
My friends scorn me; My eyes pour out tears to God.
— Job 16:20
Tears Fight Bacteria
Another notable biological feature of tears is that their chemical structure fights bacteria. This fact also illustrates a spiritual truth as it concerns our spiritual enemies whose joy is our pain.
When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me.
— Psalm 68:9
Tears contain lysosomes, which are enzymes that break down organic matter and digest it much like a cleanup crew. This cleansing aspect illustrates for us the cleansing and healing properties, both physically and emotionally, of tears.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He saved them out of their distresses.
He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destruction.
— Psalm 107:19-20
An additional note on the physical and emotional benefits of crying is that, according to the "Aging Care" website, in an article titled "Go Ahead, Have a Good Cry,"—crying lowers blood pressure and reduces anxiety, irritability, and aggression by the reduction of manganese in the crying process.4
"Shema" Means God Hears Our Tears
The psalmist took great relief in knowing that his cries entered into the very ears of God.
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried out to my God;
He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.
— Psalm 18:6
The comfort that God hears us when we cry takes on extra special meaning when we consider that there is more than passive listening to God's response.
O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act!
— Daniel 9:19
Charles Swindoll writes in agreement with this thought.
"A teardrop on earth summons the King of heaven."
God's acknowledgment of our tears takes on a deeper meaning in the pictograph interpretation of the Hebrew word for "hear."
The Hebrew word for hearing is "shema." It consists of three Hebrew letters "sheen," "mem," and "ayin."
The first letter, "sheen," is a picture of teeth representing the idea of chewing or consuming. We observed this with the digestion process of the lysosomes in the above section.
The second letter is a "mem" and is represented by a symbol of water. We might picture chaotic ocean waves, which can visually demonstrate the sensation of emotions.
The final letter "ayin" is the picture of an eye.
If we put all the concepts together, we can see God consuming the water (emotions), as recorded in our tears and emitted from our eyes. And in that consumption, He is digesting our pain, diagnosing the situation, making provision, and administering comfort and healing.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me.
— Psalm 30:2
The Hebrew word for "tear" (דָּמַע dâma) is just a one letter difference from the word for hear (שְׁמַע shema"). Instead of beginning with "sheen," as "hear" does, the Hebrew word for "tear" begins with a "dalet." "Dalet" is pictured as a door. It is indicative of a pathway through and relates to the idea of transformation. This letter reveals that tears are a way of transforming our emotions through the water, passing through the door of our eyes.
With this interpretation, to hear concerns much more than a mental assent to information. It leads to the idea of really taking another's heart into one's own heart.
This idea could be applied as it concerns our relationship with others. There are times when our heart is hurting for the pain of another. God can also use our tears as a form of a petition on behalf of them as well.
Oh, that one might plead for a man with God . . .
— Job 16:21
God Is Paying Attention
His attention to our distress is so great that not one molecule of our cry has gone unnoticed. God takes every tear into account.
You make an account my wanderings; Put my tears into your bottle; Are they not in Your book?
— Psalm 56:8
Crying is not useless.
For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from Him;
But when He cried to Him, He heard.
— Psalm 22:24
An Old Testament Illustration
First Samuel chapter one gives us an excellent illustration of the petition of tears. Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, was desperately wanting a child. She lived in a time and place that considered childlessness a curse and a shame. It was a woman's greatest pride and joy to produce heirs to her husband's name and continue the family generationally.
Hannah faced another humiliation from Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah, who produced children for him and ridiculed Hannah because of it.
. . . therefore she wept and did not eat.
— I Samuel 1:7
Hannah, in her humiliation and desperation, went to the Tabernacle to make a petition before God.
. . . she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.
— I Samuel 1:10
How Hannah prayed is very interesting. She does not use her voice.
Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.
— I Samuel 1:13
The story ends beautifully with the answered prayer of a son whom she named Samuel. Samuel means "God has heard." God heard and interpreted Hannah's heart's cry through her tears and fulfilled her need and request.
"No prayer will ever prevail with God more surely than a liquid petition, which, being distilled from the heart, trickles from the eye, and waters the cheek."
"The tears of John, which were his liquid prayers, were so far as he was concerned, the sacred keys by which the sealed book was opened (Rev. 5:4)."
— Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
We live in a culture that is largely uncomfortable with tears, and crying is sometimes viewed as awkward and unproductive. It appears from this study that there is an excellent benefit to crying and that God is not the least bit uncomfortable with our tears.
Tears as a sort of altar where we can lay it all before Him and know that He hears, cares, and can move on our behalf.
I would also like to end on this last hope and note that sorrow will one day flee away when we dwell with God forever, and all things are made new.
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
— Revelation 21:3-5
Credits and Sources
© 2010 Tamarajo