Serious Christian ministry can get hard, and deeply emotional. Paul’s letter to Timothy reflects this:
“As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy”
(2 Timothy 1:4).
Were these tears of affliction or tears of affection? (Acts 20:37) Probably a mixture of both.
Paul had left Timothy at Ephesus to deal with ferocious wolves—false teachers—who had crept into the church. Ephesus could be a hostile place for the gospel, full of idolatry and sensuality, but these wolves were the most intimidating.
Timothy wasn’t fond of conflict but standing up for the gospel and protecting the flock of God demanded he be willing to suffer it, and many other hardships and deprivations as well. Sometimes the pressures became so full, liquid sorrows tumbled down his face.
Ministry in cities like Ephesus, and in many other localities where Christian leaders labored throughout the early church, was never a stroll in a park, but it was spiritual warfare—hand to hand conflict with the devil for the souls of people they loved.
And so, anxiety became a familiar feeling; disappointment seemed to always be waiting in the shadows; loneliness was a nightly presence; criticism was a regular part of their struggle; poverty or financial stress was an unwelcome foe constantly knocking on their door; sickness stood over them ready to strike. The pressures of it all could make grown men cry!
They made Timothy cry! They made Paul cry too:
“Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews” (Acts 20:19).
But just as Timothy‘s tears endeared him to Paul, so our tears endear us to our heavenly father. He considers our tears and our willingness to lay down our lives for his sake, and he is moved. Our tears honor him. Our tears bless him. And our tears are his tears too. He enters every sorrow, every trial, every conflict, every difficulty we face. He is always there. He is always present!
Our tears are bringing us into a deeper fellowship with him—the Man of Sorrows. And our tears are preparing for us a fruitful harvest and a great reward! Someday he will wipe all our tears away with the cloth of his abundant, eternal joy!
Father of Jesus, see our tears and the tears of those who suffer today for your name. Especially the shepherds, Lord. Allow no tear to be wasted, but let them water the field of your kingdom, and cause them to bring forth much fruit. In Jesus name, Amen.
To study more on the problem of pain, and how suffering forms us into the image of Christ, see SGC’s course, Spiritual Formation