At a moment’s notice, chaos could erupt in our home. But it never failed that our most difficult moments with our child’s challenges often occurred on the mornings I was determined to make it to my bible study. And this particular morning was no different.
Although every day was difficult with his illness when he was younger, some stood out as ones that would forever be etched in my mind. And this was one of them.
Something triggered him that morning, as had happened countless times before, and a two hour-long episode began. As chaos went on around me and my adrenaline pumped within me, I leapt into action and buckled down for the long haul. By the time it had passed, I had an aching heart and an exhausted body.
But the worst of it all was the overwhelming sense of loneliness that soon followed.
Not only was I physically alone, the longer our child’s challenges went, the more isolated I felt. Very few could relate to our specific circumstances and most barely knew they existed. Even doctors seemed at a loss as to the cause, let alone the solution.
That day, as the minutes ticked by and the intensity slowly diminished, it ended as quickly as it began. With an aching heart and exhausted body, I ran to check on the other kids who were engrossed in play, who seemed oblivious the chaos that surrounded them.
I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge. As hard as it would be to leave now for bible study, park a mile down the street, walk with 3 children and a baby stroller toward the packed parking lot, and walk in embarrassingly late, I needed this. I needed community (even if they had no clue the burdens I was walking in with); I needed perspective; and more than anything, I needed to know God saw me and was with me.
So I began the lengthy process of gathering coats, arguing about not needing a coat, finding shoes, arguing that winter shoes do not include sandals, buckling into the car, and arguing that I didn’t have time for them to buckle themselves. But finally, we were on our way.
“God, I don’t even have words. My heart aches and this all feels like too much. I need to know you see my pain and tears, and I need to know that you care,” I prayed.
I drove up to the church where bible study was held and, sure enough, the parking lot was full, with cars lined up as far down the street as I could see. “I don’t have the strength to make this walk today,” I thought. So I pulled up near the front of the church, hoping that I could at least drop the kids off in childcare before parking in Timbuktu. But as I pulled around near the front, something caught my eye. Right there in the front row of the parking lot, right next to the front door, was an open spot that had been partially blocked by the door to the garbage dump, blown open by the wind. I burst out with a mixture of laughter and tears, hardly able to believe what I saw. It was as if God had said, “Sarah, I see you. I see your weary, worn, and hurting heart. And I saved you a spot.”
Yes, in all my chaos, fears, weariness, grief, and pain – as silly as it may sound, in that moment I knew my tears were seen by the living God.
The God of Seeing
As sweet as that moment was to me, it wasn’t an end in and of itself. It was the fresh reminder of the truth that God has already spoken to us in scripture through the accounts of those who personally experienced the truth that he sees the tears and bears the sorrows of his children.
As I sat there, the account of Hagar in Genesis 16 came to mind. Hagar was a servant girl who, after giving birth to Abram’s son (which was Sarai’s attempt at forcing the will of God to give her a son) and facing the backlash of Sarai’s jealousy, she was forced to flee into the wilderness with her child. Right when things must have seemed hopeless, “the angel of the Lord found her. (v 7)” God saw the outcast, hurting, tear-streaked face of Hagar and he drew near to her. “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me (v 13).’”
If God saw Hagar in the wilderness when no one else could, surely he saw me and loved me enough to draw near – even when I felt like I had nothing to give in return. And surely he sees you.
The Heavy Weight of Silent Tears
I walked into Bible Study as women were already deeply engrossed in discussion. Should I give a reason for why I was late? Would they ask why I had puffy eyes and a red face? Would it even make sense if I tried to explain why I had a mixture of grief over the morning and the silliness of a ‘miraculously’ saved parking space?
I was exhausted, weary, and unsure of how I would survive the rest of the day, but I was here and I had seen the personal, compassionate, seeing hand of God. I may be in a room where no one could imagine what had transpired the two hours prior, but Jesus saw me just as he had seen Hagar, and the evidence of his care, even if unremarkable to others, gave me the strength to press on. At least for the next moment.
If God cared enough about my tears over a dreaded long walk with a screaming child, two toddlers, and a carseat, surely he cared enough about the deep anguish within me over the fresh ache of a life I never imagined. Not only does he see my tears, but he carries my sorrows as if they are his.
The Man of Sorrows
Jesus, the Man of Sorrows knows what it’s like to carry an unimaginable weight that on one else can fully see, know, or carry. Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was crushed for our transgressions, he was pierced for our sins; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus walked the unimaginable, lonely, painful road to the cross, so that he could not only free us from the crushing weight and penalty of sin (which is what we need more than anything else), but so that he could walk with us in our sorrows, bearing the weight of our grief, and giving us the strength to endure, knowing that, like the cross, there is purpose, hope, and redemption in our pain. I may not be able to see it or understand it right now, but I know the God of the universe sees me and loves me with the tender love of a Father. That is enough for me today.
Friend, that same God of the universe sees every tear that rolls down your cheek, whether it be sorrow in the silence of the night or a heavy burden in the noise of a crowd. You may be carrying sorrows and burdens that no one else can see or help carry at the moment, but remember that Jesus, the Man of Sorrows who gave his life for you, is strong enough to carry yours. Your tears do not fall to the ground as useless. They are held in the loving, tender, strong arms of the God who created you, the Heavenly Father who sees you, and the Savior who came to redeem you. May that be enough for you today.
Home is around the corner,
If this has encouraged you, you can pre-order Sarah’s new book – Tears and Tossings: Hope in the Waves of Life, releasing May 1st.
To read more on the hope we have in suffering, you can purchase “Hope When It Hurts – 30 Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering” authored by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell here or here. Jeff and Sarah Walton’s marriage book, Together Through the Storms – Biblical Encouragements for Your Marriage When Life Hurts.