Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record? Psalm 56:8
Somewhere in this world a persecuted Christian might be crying right at this moment. It might seem that their tears are in vain and simply drop to the ground. But ages ago King David was convinced that God was interested in his tears. In the passage noted above, alternate translations for listing tears on a “scroll” include putting tears in a “bottle” or “wineskin.”
Today in the Middle East it is not uncommon to see a collection of oddly-shaped bottles, labeled only as “sprinklers.” But in ancient Middle Eastern times these bottles were known as “tear-catchers.” When a husband went off to war, his wife would collect her tears for him in a bottle. On his return she would hand him the bottle as proof of her love. In times of death or serious trouble, family members would bring their tear-catchers and collect tears from all the people present. Sometimes the tears would be stored in a small round jar with a lid. These tear bottles represented the sorrows of the family; tears serving as a message in a bottle. In those days each person was buried with his or her tear bottle; archaeologists have found many of these bottles in ancient tombs.
In the days of King David of Israel the bottle was more likely made of animal skin. David was a man who went through a lot of suffering and persecution. David had no doubts: his tears were not shed in vain, but were collected by God. The words in Psalm 56 could also be those of our persecuted brothers and sisters. They serve as a reminder for us to “treasure” their tears.
The words of David are still true today. People try to trample on our brothers and sisters; want to harm them; spy on their movements. David put his trust clearly in the Lord. In verses 3 and 4 he says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
Watching the moving DVD documentary, A Cry from Iran, you will be brought to tears as you see and hear the story of Iranian Pastor Haik who was martyred for his faith in the mid-1990’s. He worked tirelessly for the release from prison of Christian brother Mehdi Dibaj who was sentenced to death for apostasy. Miraculously Mehdi was released. At Pastor Haik’s funeral, a teary-eyed Mehdi Dibaj said, “I was the one who should have died, not Haik.” Six months later he too was martyred.
Recently our office for the Middle East received an Iranian “tear-catcher” as a present. The bottle helps us to remember the tears of the Iranian Christians, but with them all of the Christians around the world who are being persecuted. It speaks about grief, about tears, about suffering; but also about faith and confidence in the Lord.
Let us remember their tears, knowing that as one member suffers, all members suffer. And let us rejoice that someday God will wipe away all tears from their eyes and our eyes.
RESPONSE: Today I will remember those of my extended Christian family around the world who are suffering and shedding tears.
PRAYER: Pray for persecuted church believers today who may be shedding sorrowful tears of grief.