In David’s Song of Ascents we could picture “those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing sheaves with him” (Ps 126:5-6). The wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, and the greedy man curses and spurns the Lord. His thoughts are, “There is no God” (Ps 10:3-4). But when the joy of our salvation is restored and a willing spirit sustained, then he will teach transgressors his ways, and sinners will be converted to the Lord (Ps 51:12-13).
An author, historian, and diplomat Washington Irving (1783–1859) wrote, “There is sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” These are the same tears which missionaries shed as soul-winners, rejoicing over the battles that are won, and being upset over souls that are lost.
Soon these evangelists realize that they aren’t always victories. Yes, they do experience highs, but there are lows too. Billy Graham (1918–2017), a Christian evangelist and Southern Baptist minister said, “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’” Christians of faith cry when others’ salvation is at stake. It may not be for this reason only, but when they pray and try to convert the wayward, who refuse to see the light.
But how must they think of people who have transitioned to the great beyond? There could be lots which can be said. Believers wish they could have been more open to these individuals, but now it’s too late. Abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) wrote, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” At such moments it takes our loving Savior to put our hearts at ease.
Tears of Joy
Yet there are happy tears especially when evangelists’ prayers are answered. They jump for joy and are delightful over every saved soul. Hosea Ballou (1771–1852), a Universalist clergyman and theological writer said, “Tears of joy are like the summer rain drops pierced by sunbeams.” What a magnificent image that captures the delight of God’s blessings of those who are sinners! A better life awaits them and they will live in peace.
This life though is a mixed bag of emotions. An activist on behalf of the indigent insane, Dorothy Dix (1802–1887) wrote, “There isn’t a single human being who hasn’t plenty to cry over, and the trick is to make the laughs outweigh the tears.” Evangelists prefer to be laughing especially when there are joyful victories. Laughter sets the right tone for future efforts in missionary fields. But these Christians might be on a roller coaster. It is therefore wise to view such variations as gifts. For believers may never know when such problems can be blessings in disguise.
A Spanish mystic and Roman Catholic Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) said, “I think you have to pay for love with bitter tears.” Tears can be expressions of joy and sadness. But their significance to Christians is profound for they reveal a caring nature. For these Christians pride themselves by putting their hearts and souls in their evangelical works for other people’s welfare.