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The Trail Of Tears

The Trail Of Tears poster

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”—Psalm 30:5

It is noteworthy that the Word of God has much to say about weeping—about the matter of tears. You would be a very unusual person indeed if you had never shed a tear, because tears stain the faces of folk in every clime, in every age.

There is a certain eloquence to tears. Nor are they necessarily an indication of weakness. Visualize, if you will, the iron Napoleon as he witnessed his seemingly interminable troops marching into the Prussian campaign. Sparkling emotion became liquid on his cheeks. It may have been a surge of pride, the overpowering of self-confidence, or the premature paeans of victory. But whatever it was, tears put the soul of the man on his face.

What are tears? Depending of course upon their prompting, tears are drops of sympathy, flowing sorrow, floods of jubilance, liquid love, distilled disappointment, crystallized agony. Tears are the overflow of emotion. Observe Jeremiah, standing by his window as he lamented, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night.” He was concerned about the condition of his people. Then note the Lord Jesus. When He came to the little family of Bethany, He found the two sisters bereft of their brother. They were dear to the heart of the Lord, and we read, “Jesus wept.” Or take the beloved Paul—a rugged, sturdy veteran of many spiritual conflicts. He gave himself to tears once and again.

Tears Of Sorrow

The trail of tears in the Scriptures had a very early beginning. “And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba…and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:2). There is the father of the faithful, that great spiritual giant who moved at the prompting of the Spirit, knowing not whither he went, but believing God as he went. His faith was counted unto him for righteousness. But look at him now! Sarah is gone, leaving his heart torn, his spirit wounded and his soul cast down. Dear old Father Abraham stands there with eyes suffused with tears and a broken heart giving vent to sobbing emotion. Why did the tears start? There wasn’t a tear in the Garden where God put the man and his wife. There wasn’t a pain or a burden; there only were blessings of life. Why did the tears start? Sin caused sorrow; sorrow brings tears, and there has been an unceasing flow as people have marched to the resting place for the bodies of those dearer to them than life itself. These are tears of sorrow.

Tears Of Regret

Pursuing the trail of tears through the Scriptures, we come to the tears of regret. It would seem that hotter drops of moisture could not be emitted from the eyes than these. “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law,” (Psalm 119:136) the psalmist sadly explained. To look back on the lack of interest in God’s Word, to look back upon the lack of receiving His Word; to have ignored to any extent what the Truth could have meant to the heart and to the life, is ample cause for tearful remorse. “What might have been,” the weary heart cries as realization settles solemnly upon the soul in after years.

Then there is the account of Esau. The writer in Hebrews 12:17 reminds us that “ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Tears can do a lot of things, but tears cannot bring back a neglected opportunity. Tears cannot in many instances change a wrong decision. Here is Esau, when the time of inheriting his blessing came, looking back to the time when he forfeited the privilege. He tried to find a place of repentance. He wept bitterly, but it was too late to repent. There are certain things that even repentance will not correct, however carefully sought.

Tears Of Compassion

“When Jesus therefore saw her (Mary) weeping…he groaned in the spirit and was troubled: Jesus wept” (John 11:33, 35). He recalled the pleasant times of fellowship in the Bethany home. His love for Mary and Martha was most evident. What were the tears of the Lord Jesus Christ? Were they a sign of weakness? No, they were the outflow of compassion. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.”

Nor was this the only time when Jesus evidenced tearful compassion. “When he was come near, he beheld the city and wept over it.” You say, tears in a triumphal procession? Are tears becoming to victory? These were tears of compassion. He beheld from the mountain the city of peace which had no peace—the city where he should have been and will some day be enthroned. He saw the glistening minarets, the works of men, yet they had no room for Him. His concern was for them. “If thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from you,” He sorrowfully stated. He was weeping for the regret which they would later experience.

Tears Of Concern

The dauntless Paul, rugged and valiant, revealed his concern for the people when he said, “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). Paul weeping? That could scarcely be. Why there never was a more rugged and dauntless servant of God than he. He had a conscience void of offense. He had said, “None of these things move me.” Did he weep? Yes, he was moved with deep concern for the people—especially for their spiritual welfare.

“For many walk,” he emphasized to the Philippian believers, “of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction” (Philippians 3:18). How may we reconcile these tears with the man who, through so many heartaches, persecutions and hardships, never had a tear in his eyes? Lashed to the stake for the stripes, stoned, beaten, shipwrecked—these things were inconsequential when it came to the matter of men dying without Christ. Paul could sing in a damp, dark dungeon even though fastened in the stocks, but men going to perdition pierced him through with pity and motivated the tearful outburst. They were tears of a repeated warning, tears of an evident concern, tears of an appealing challenge, tears of a recognized responsibility, tears of a faithful servant.

Tears Of Service

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” and “he that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5–6). Here we see something of both the outset and the outcome. The kind of outcome is dependent upon the type of outset. We note the sower, the sincerity, the service, the seed, the certainty, the success and the sheaves, but the heart of love and concern is in the center of every profitable spiritual activity.

Observing the Apostle Paul once again, we detect something of the character of his ministry from these words, “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears…I kept back nothing that was profitable onto you” (Acts 20:19). It was not his ruggedness which made Paul so irresistible and so effective. It was his tenderness; his revealed concern for the people. He told the Corinthians that he had made them sorrowful, but it was to make them glad. He was the Jeremiah of the New Testament.

Tears Of Repentance

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep” (James 4:8–9). While David in the fifty-first Psalm is the finest example of this exhortation, it makes its appeal to all who have an ear to hear. The insulting silence with which the heart appeals of the Almighty are met must grieve the Holy Spirit unspeakably. Perhaps many of us will, like Esau, wait until it is too late and then seek carefully and with tears a place of repentance, only to find no relief. If we felt that, to a very alarming extent, we are simply using the Infinite for a convenience and as a conscience pacifier, perhaps we would be gripped with a sorrow of heart that would produce tears of genuine repentance. We want sinners to repent of their rejection of Christ. God wants us to repent of our indifference toward the claims of Christ.

“He calls you, hush, He calls you,
He would not have you go
Another step without Him
Because He loves you so.”

Termination Of Tears

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). This is the night of tears, but the morning will dawn, the day will break. Then what? “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). This cannot be true of the unconverted. For them, there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in eternal regret and everlasting remorse. With the regenerate, how different the situation! The night of tears will give way to the joy of morning.

One would hesitate to dry a tear from the eye of another. You might brush a thread from the coat, but would you take your handkerchief and dry a tear from the eye? Yet God, not the archangel, not a cherubim or a seraphim, but God Himself shall wipe away all tears from the eyes of His children. The trail of tears will end when, with eternal meaning, our loving heavenly Father will say, “Weep no more.” Now we see through a glass darkly; then, face to face. Now it is the walk; then, the welcome. Now it is the practice; then, the presentation. Now it is the exercise; then, the entrance. Now the obedience; then, the abundance. Now, it is the remembrance; then, the reward. Now, it is our calling; then, His coming. Now, it is the tears; then, the joy—supernal and unending.