I was recently asked the question, “How often do you cry?”
To be honest, the question caught me off guard. Studies show us that, on average, women cry about 5.3 times a month versus 1.3 times a month for men.
Personally, I’m way above average. I cry a lot. I can blame it on a lot of things: genetics, allergies, sweaty eyeballs, someone cutting up an onion or leaky tear ducts. But at the end of the day, I’m a crier.
So, I answered the question by admitting that I cry more days than not.
That conversation stuck with me, and I began to ask a second question: Why do we cry?
What causes emotions to well up in our chest, catch our breath and come tumbling out as tears? Is it age? Past experiences? Hormones? Why do certain scenes from movies move us to tears? Why do sappy commercials bring on sniffles? Why do acts of kindness launch us into lament?
I’m sure that someone somewhere has done a study on the causes of crying. But in those moments when we are overcome by strong emotions, it can be really confusing. Sometimes we know exactly why we are weeping, such as in the case of a sudden tragedy or loss, or when we empathize with a close friend who is hurting.
Other times it seems that we cry for no obvious reason.
I am comforted with the fact that the Bible tells us that Jesus cried. It records Him crying two different times and for two different reasons.
The first occurrence is found in Luke 13:34. Jesus weeps over the sin of the city of Jerusalem. The second is at that grave of His good friend Lazarus in John 11:1-44. Our sin and our suffering moved God to tears. Now, it’s probable that Jesus cried other times in His life, but these are the only two instances recorded in the Bible.
A third question came to my mind: What makes me cry?
I had never thought about what brought on the waterworks, so I began to keep a list. Top of the list was sad scenes from movies. I think that almost everyone with a heart has shed a tear while watching “Field of Dreams.” Every guy would love to play catch with their dad just one more time. And I can’t even think about “Marley and Me,” “Gladiator” or “Remember the Titans” without getting misty-eyed.
The second reason on my “cry list” is sudden and unexpected calamity or tragedy. A catastrophic illness, an awful accident or a horrific disaster all cause me to catch my breath, grab my chest and begin to sob. It’s natural for us to respond this way when we receive unforeseen news.
But here is where my list took an unexpected turn.
I was caught off-guard when I realized that I cry when I witness someone offering an undeserved act of kindness, generosity or forgiveness—when someone goes out of their way to help when it appeared that no help was coming.
Over the past few weeks I’ve seen this play out several times. A couple gladly gave an elderly man a ride to a doctor’s appointment. A home group helped a single mom pay for her car repairs. A teacher encouraged a student who gets no encouragement at home.
The last category on my “cry list” may be the most important.
It’s when someone surrenders their life to God. I’m fortunate to be in a place where I get to see people accept God’s amazing forgiveness and be baptized almost on a weekly basis. Most of the time, I know a little bit about the journey they’ve been on. And when they step across the line and commit to God, I’m a mess. I cry, not out of pure emotion, sadness or surprise, but out of gratefulness of what God can do in our lives.
I’m reminded of what Christian author Annie F. Downs posted on Instagram recently.
“You better remember what makes you cry. Those are the moments that are teaching you something. Something about you, your life and God. Your body is saying what your gut knows is true—this moment matters.”
So let me ask you a question: What makes you cry?
Why not start making a list? You might be surprised at what you discover about yourself.
Michael Kast is Southeast’s Elizabethtown Campus pastor.