He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Marriage can be like the days of the French Revolution, immortalized in the words of Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities—“the best of times and the worst of times.”
In the best times of marriage, we can’t get enough of each other. We breeze through workdays, knowing we can be together afterward. We spoon our bodies in the night, delighting in how well we fit together. We cook special things for each other. We reach for each other’s hands in church, show each other off to friends, get high at the sound of each other’s voice on the phone.
We crave each other in the hard times too: when our parents decide to divorce, when a close friend is diagnosed with cancer, when one of us loses a job, when we have a miscarriage, when someone betrays us. We ease the hurt by holding each other tight and letting the tears fall, by reading passages of Scripture together, by linking hearts and hands in prayer. Somehow just being together fortifies us in the times when we ache and hurt.
In the worst of times, we lose each other. He flirts with a waitress, making his wife feel invisible. She goes on a spending spree at the mall, sabotaging the budget her husband so carefully worked out. He works late night after night; she spends too much time with friends. Even at church the togetherness is lost as she goes to choir, while he goes to Bible study. She has meetings that leave him sitting alone; he is so busy talking to others that he barely notices she’s gone. Even when together, spouses can be alone. They stay home for the night, but he’s upstairs watching a football game, while she’s downstairs trotting on the treadmill. Or during dinner, she’s replaying a work problem in her head, while he’s reading the paper.
Whatever the reason, failing to connect becomes a kind of living death. The warmth, the passion, the closeness between us cools until it seems we’re only going through the motions of marriage. Then something, somehow, prods us into reaching for each other again: Maybe it’s a sermon that cuts truth like a knife into our hearts or a friend who begins asking questions about our relationship or a work associate whose problems become too personal. Then things can really heat up between us—this time with anger, accusations, threats and tears. The pain is excruciating, but if we work through it (sometimes with professional help), we can find each other again in a new kind of love, one that’s forged in the fire and ashes of repentance and forgiveness. Then the tears we drop are ones of relief, gladness and joy.
One day we will stop crying for good. After we pass through the final vale of separation from each other, God himself will wipe our faces clean of tears. Then he will usher us into glory, where we will be so united with him, so one with him, that there will never again be a need for tears. The best times of marriage, in all their passion and delight, are a prelude to that.
Phyllis Ten Elshof