Most of my conversations begin with “I read this article the other day….” Annoying, yes, but true nonetheless. As a self-proclaimed news nerd who works as a part-time radio anchor, knowing what’s going on in the world ensures my next paycheck.
My news consumption doesn’t stop once I clock out. I spend much of my time scouring newspapers, magazines, and numerous online sources daily for a variety of good stories. That doesn’t count the steady stream of talk radio blasting through my speakers as I drive around town. (My friends long ago pegged me for an old soul. I regret nothing.)
Much has been written and preached about turning off the world and limiting one’s consumption of news. Studies repeatedly show that a constant stream of information can lead to depression, irritability, and a host of other health problems. That argument certainly has merits. However, my battle lies in turning off my mind. The news of the day – much of it bad – rings in my ears long after my mic has been unplugged.
It’s no wonder these people, sound bites, and images resonate with me. The world spins on its axis all the while screaming for a soothing balm for its wounds. In January alone, the U.S. has seen a gunman massacre dozens at a Florida airport, a young man be sentenced to death for murdering nine members of an African-American church, and floods force hundreds from their homes out west.
On any given day we watch families search for their missing loved ones, children struggle with hunger, and politicians pitch fits like toddlers when things don’t go their way.
Contempt has taken up permanent residence on Facebook, while discouragement and apathy grab a foothold in other areas of our lives.
Recently, when the anxiety of the news cycle got the better of me, I reached out for some much needed connection with God over the state of our world. Nothing would come out.
I cried instead.
There were no words. No scripture verse to call upon. Just tears. Somehow, in that moment, the tears were enough.
Scripture tells us that a good cry is sometimes all that’s needed before God’s throne. Romans 8:26-28 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
Weeping expresses what our words can’t. It communicates the gut-wrenching state of a soul who is so burdened that words, thoughts, and strategies cannot be articulated into a coherent prayer. Crying not only unburdens the one praying, but opens up the door for God to pour out His spirit.
This weeping intercession reminds me of a scene from Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play “A Raisin in the Sun.” It depicts the life of a multi-generational African-American family living in poverty and cramped quarters on Chicago’s south side. The matriarch, Mrs. Younger, lives with her daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson; she’s recently buried her husband. The faintest glimmer of hope for a better life lies in her late husband’s insurance check. Her husband’s life, death, and hard work in between can now set them free. The family decides to move out of their tiny apartment and into a house. Along the way, her son foolishly invests this same money in a business opportunity that turns out to be a scam. The money vanishes along with the family’s dream of moving out and moving on to a better life. As the sister lashes out saying there’s nothing left in her brother that deserves loving, Mama Younger sets her daughter straight:
“There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing. Have you cried for that boy today? I don’t mean for yourself and for the family ’cause we lost the money. I mean for him: what he been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning – because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ’cause the world done whipped him so when you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”
There is great wisdom in those words. We have a mess of tricks in our solutions bag these days – say something, don’t say something, listen, speak up, buy a gun, get rid of your guns, pass a law, fight a law, volunteer, donate money, get involved, and keep your head down because this doesn’t involve you.
Maybe the solution we haven’t considered is weeping – for people, for politicians, for policies – for anything seemingly unsolvable. The good news lies in the fact that when situations are out of our hands, the fit right into the hands of a loving God.
Have you wept for them today? “Them” applies to a whole host of individuals: the people in your life who drive you nuts. The neighbor in your community whose son has run away again. The student in your class who tests your patience. The husband you wish would change. The woman struggling with her pregnancy. The monster on the news you think should pay for his crimes. The outgoing President. The incoming President.
Have you cried for them today?
The bits and pieces we catch in our 24-hour news obsessed culture is still only a snapshot of the story. God sees it all – without creative editing, special filters, or scraps left on the editing room floor — and He cares about it all. The evil that rocks our world will never be ceased entirely this side of Heaven, but it can be interrupted, stopped, and overcome.
Perhaps God will choose to accomplish His plan through your tears.