She sat and caressed the soft white face of the gentle old giant she had known her entire five years of life. Our old Great Pyrenees stretched out her tired paw and rested it in the lap of our granddaughter Lilley.
I sat next to Lilley, my own tears washing my sadness. “It’s okay to cry,” I whispered to her. “God gave us tears to help us when we are sad.”
And with that, she wept. Freely.
Tears—an often-confusing gift. We cry when we are happy, angry, tired, hungry, hurt, relieved, afraid.
Oftentimes, as parents, we are hesitant to cry in front our children. We don’t want them to worry about us or be insecure because they need us to always be “okay.”
Just as we tell happy stories of childhood and testimonies of answered prayers, we can speak freely of sorrows past and how God brought peace to our aching hearts. We can tell of the ways God kept his promise to bring good from difficulty to those who love and trust him (from Romans 8:28-29).
We don’t need to be afraid to ask God for wisdom to cry appropriately in front of our children and grandchildren. Instead, we can understand that tears are an opportunity to teach our children about God’s gift of emotions.
They are also an opportunity to point our children to Scriptures that tell of others who knew the mixed blessing of tears:
- Hannah wept bitterly before the LORD (from 1 Samuel 1:10).
- God heard the cries of young Ishmael as he lay under a shrub in the dessert and his mom, Hagar, as she “lifted her voice and wept” (from Genesis 21:17-18).
- Nehemiah wept and fasted for many days when he learned that the Hebrew people who survived captivity were living in distress and vulnerable because the walls of the great city of Jerusalem were in disrepair (from Nehemiah 1:3-4).
- Our Savior, the Son of God, wept when Mary fell at his feet heartbroken because of her brother’s death (from John 11:32-35).
As adults, we know sorrow is inevitable. A necessary part of living, growing, and learning. Through living the truth of God’s Word, we can teach our children that there is a time and place for everything under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:4-5).
We can use moments of hurt as stepping stones to understand that God doesn’t leave us alone in our pain. Our sweet girls and boys do not have to feel lost when they are sad or confused or alone or disappointed. God wants us to direct our tears to him. He hears and comes to our side.
So when our children experience loss, as with the death of a pet, we have the opportunity to strengthen their faith for the day they weep over a greater loss.
Our gentle giant the old Great Pyrenees slipped away just a few days after Lilley and I shared our tears. When her parents told her that her fluffy friend was gone, Lilley went to her room and, once again, wept freely.
Even now we often talk about Nala and how thankful we are God gave her to us, and I am confident the tears shed together are a part of the foundation of faith being laid in Lilley’s heart.
God gave us the gift of tears. We don’t have to be afraid to cry.
(Cover photo courtesy of Erik Witsoe on Unsplash)