Why Are You Crying?

woman crying

“Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in…
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him.  “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
he thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said.”  (John 20:11, 14-16 NLT)

It’s funny how, as we read the Bible, the way we interpret it is so often linked to our own ideas and experiences.  We read the words that were spoken, but we aren’t always able to discern the tone of voice or the facial expressions, so it is left to our imaginations to fill in the gaps.

In the past I would have imagined Jesus’ question here being spoken with a tone of impatience, criticising Mary, telling her there was no need to cry, frustrated that she couldn’t recognise him when he was standing right in front of her.

However my views on this passage, and on crying in general, have changed.

It began with a fascinating and enlightening conversation several years ago.  A group of friends was talking about crying, estimating how many times they cried in a year.  Most people said somewhere between 20 and 40, one girl said she cried at least 60 times in a year, and when someone else confessed she probably cried around 4 times a year, people reacted with shock that the number was so low.

I was also shocked, but for the opposite reason.  I think my number would have been 1 or 2, and I had no idea that was so unusual.  I couldn’t even have imagined crying 60 times in a year!

If I’m honest, I was quite proud of the fact that I didn’t cry much.  It made me feel strong and that I could cope with life.  I was pleased with my ability to hold it together… until God cracked me open.

As I finally let out the pain I’d been carrying for years, I suddenly discovered the ability to cry.  60 times a year suddenly didn’t seem so much any more.  Though I didn’t keep track, I think in that first year it must have been at least 100.

Sometimes I felt I’d never stop crying, but I did, and gradually I worked my way down to more of an average number.  I think my number is still on the low side but it is much higher than it was, and it still surprises me sometimes when I cry over films or news stories or blog posts – things I could never have imagined crying over in the past.

Now I hear Jesus’ question not with a tone of impatience, but with tenderness and love.  He knew why Mary was crying- that the grief and loss she felt was because of her love for him- and surely that must have touched him.  Surely he must have cherished the fact that she cared so deeply.

Surely it must also have saddened him to see someone he cared for in so much pain.  Yes, he longed for the realisation that he was alive to stop her tears, but I don’t think he felt frustration, but empathy and compassion.

Jesus understood her grief.  He wept himself at the grave of Lazarus.  (John 11:35)  Even though he knew that death was not the end of the story, still he wept at the pain and sorrow of the situation.

Psalm 56:8 assures us that our tears are noticed and valued by God: “You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”

This comforts me, and reassures me that it’s okay to cry. Some of us have bigger bottles of tears than others because we’re all different, but each one of them is precious to God.

I’ll be honest- I have cried more than usual this week, because of pain and brokenness I see in the world and feel in my spirit.

Part of me still tries to squash that with the exhortation that Jesus is alive, that he has triumphed over all these things.  It tells me that, like Mary, I am mourning unnecessarily because Jesus has won the victory, that I just have to lift my eyes from the circumstances and see that Jesus is there.

The truth is though that sometimes, as they did for Mary, circumstances blind us.  Our grief clouds our view and prevents us from looking beyond it to see Jesus.  This passage assures me that in those times he draws near, not in condemnation or criticism, but in love and compassion.  He comes to us in our sorrow and tenderly calls us by name.

He draws near in love and compassion. He comes to us in our sorrow and tenderly calls us by name. (Click to tweet.)

Why are you crying

This is part 8 of a series reflecting on questions Jesus asked.  Join me next week for the final post in the series.  (I think I said that this was the last one but I was getting ahead of myself!)
Click below to catch up on the other posts:
What Do You Want Me To Do For You?
Do You Want To Get Well?
How Much Bread Do You Have?
Who Touched My Robe? 
Can Worry Add To Your Life?
Do You Believe That I Am Able To Do This?
Why Have You Abandoned Me?

Embracing Every Day  “God-Sized  Holly Barrett     purposefulfaith.com             


29 thoughts on “Why Are You Crying?

  1. In my first marriage I cried everyday as far as I remember. I’m sure it wasn’t every single one but every time I thought how old my face was going to become! Now I cry maybe a couple times a month for my children who suffered during that marriage and the aftermath. It is not that I have less feelings than I used to, but that I have a better grip I think by God’s grace. It is ok to cry as long as we still get up and make moves for Him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think sometimes we have phases where we need to cry more as we’re grieving and processing. Then once some healing had taken place we may cry less. It’s encouraging to know that God understands and it’s okay to cry.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember a girl I worked closely with one summer being furious with me because I never got mad or sad. In really horrible situations, she never saw me cry. And like you said- I was proud of that. Same thing in my journey now, Lesley- I am still often surprised to find myself crying over things I care about. But it’s also so freeing. God made emotions, and as you highlight in this passage here, He responds to them with such compassion! Grateful with you : )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Bethany! I’m glad it’s not just me. It is much better when we feel free to express our emotions and know that God understands and cares.


  3. Hi Lesley. I read this with tears in my eyes. Sometimes there is a wave of tears welling up from my heart and pressing against the back of my eyes, but I often hold them back. I still have a hard time sometimes to let go, to get past that putting up a strong front. Or because I don’t want others to feel upset. Thank you for reminding me here that Jesus never criticizes us for crying. His empathy and compassion are amazing, aren’t they? Love and hugs to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trudy, I know that feeling of holding back the tears that are welling up. I’m still not great at letting them out in front of other people- I am better than I was but I find it easier when it’s just me and God.
      It is so encouraging to know that Jesus understands and he cares. Love and hugs to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another great question. I for many years was like you and rarely cried. I shielded myself to the point that when I started feeling the pain of different things I have gone through in life, I was afraid I would start crying and never stop. I have also evened out in how many times I cry but it doesn’t matter so much anymore. All that matters is that my pain is felt deeply by God and it is okay to release it to him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, when you’re so used to holding it in it is scary to let it out in case you can’t stop. I found that to be the case in the past. When I did let go and cry it often seemed out of proportion to the situation because it wasn’t just about that.
      I also agree that it doesn’t really matter how much we cry- just that we are free to express our feelings in some way and know that God cares.


  5. Lesley, count me as another thinker who, over the years and through the wildernesses, has learned how to feel. 🙂 I think some of this is related to personality and season of life, but I also think that as we get closer to Jesus, we might be a bit more likely to be “moved with compassion” as He was. I so love the truth that He keeps track of our sorrows and collects our tears in His bottle. What an amazing thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually always was a feeler rather than a thinker (according to Myers Briggs etc.). I just wasn’t good at expressing it. I agree there are several different factors involved but that as we get closer to Jesus we do have more compassion.


  6. Hi Lesley! What an interesting question, how often do I cry in a year? Of course, this has been a sad year for me, my dad died, and now we are selling his condo. I think I’m crying more than usual.
    I’m so sorry that you are challenged by pain, both physically and emotionally. I do remember reading that being able to cry is a gift, not everyone has it. It can be such a release of emotion, and ends up resetting my feelings. I hope it does that for you too. Jesus is right with you, holding your hand, and looking deeply into your eyes with love. Yes, he would ask ‘Why are you crying?’ , with great tenderness. And even better, he really wants you to explain it to him.
    Wishing you peace,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment, Ceil. That almost made me cry! 🙂
      I think a lot does depend on circumstances and certainly there are times of grieving when we cry more than normal. It is a good way to release our feelings and it is certainly comforting that Jesus cares and genuinely wants to know. Love and hugs to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lesley,
    That beautiful scene in the garden you depicted is one of my favorite stories — for so many reasons – -but I hadn’t given thought to the tears that much. What an intriguing aspect to explore! I can relate to your experience of God tenderizing your heart since I have cried more in the past few years than I think in all my years combined! 🙂 I think he has to soften our hearts first to prepare us for the next steps in our journeys. Your words are so lovely, Lesley – -thanks so much for sharing them with us! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m a feeler and a crier so I don’t think I could even count my number…yikes! I’m so grateful for a God who knows are sorrow and doesn’t condemn us – or Mary – for feeling our feelings. He just gently leads us to find our strength in faith. Love your perspective here, Lesley. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an interesting thought on those verses! I often think that of the Bible – that sometimes we can overlook the emotions people were feeling because we can’t see their face or the intonation of their voice. I too have been at the place where I didn’t understand broken and then when I began to heal the tears just started to flow very frequently.
    Visiting you from #chasingcommunity

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great insight on crying! I really identify with Mary in this scene. I imagine her eyes closed weeping and Jesus says her name “Mary” in a quiet loving tone and it sends chills through her and then her eyes are opened to who she is talking to! Beautiful scene. I love this series of posts on the questions of Jesus! I will have to read more of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Janet. I’m glad you like the series. I agree, that must have been an amazing moment when Mary finally looked up through her tears and saw who was calling her name.


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