John wept.

woman crying

Don’t forget her.

I got all choked up Tuesday on the radio. I was talking about Francis Schaeffer and why he cried and the depth of it gripped me and I cried, too. Couldn’t help it. Marti noticed it in my voice and asked me why. I couldn’t answer beyond the fact that it was something Schaeffer taught me to do.

Francis Schaeffer’s voice was high-pitched and shrill. I used to joke that because of his Philadelphia accent he sounded like Elmer Fudd on drugs. But the more I listened to it, the more I realized it was a cry. The whole delivery was a cry. I can still hear it.

With his “Line of Despair,” Schaeffer drew a box, climbed in it, announced that this was what reality looks like to modern man, and cried.

Jesus cried too. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible. We used to joke about it when we were kids in Sunday school because we got points for the number of verses we could memorize and recite. Everyone knew this one: “Jesus wept.” He cried for the same reason Francis Schaeffer did.

Jesus cried at the tomb of Lazarus. Why did he do that? He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, for heaven’s sake. He was on the brink of one of His most triumphant moments. Why cry now? Because He looked around Him and saw the despair of the people, and the reality of their situation broke over Him like a 10-foot wave. He realized that when they put someone they love into one of these tomb things, that’s it for them. As far as they know they will never see that person again. That’s about as far away from Christ’s reality that you could get, but He went there and He felt it, and it was real – so real that He cried. It’s called empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

My wife often tells a story about friends of ours who were in the hospital having a baby. In the middle of labor, the wife calls out that she is cold. The dimwit husband says, “Why? I’m not cold.” SO? WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING? GO GET A BLANKET, DUMMY! The world is lost without Christ and what do we say? “Well, I’m not lost.”

Jesus could have said, “I’m not in despair here. I’m about to bring your friend out of the tomb. What’s your problem?” But He didn’t. Instead, He drew a box, climbed in it, felt what reality looks like to the people around Him, and cried. It’s a beautiful scene.

It’s different now. People are not struggling with the same things as they were in 1969, but they’re still struggling. We went from modernism to postmodernity and now we’re beyond that and I’m not even sure what we call the basic philosophical reality of the current western mind, but one thing we do know that without God people are lost. It’s so simple. People need the Lord.


Last week I called a bunch of people, including Jesus, communists, just to prove a point, and got 42 responses and almost lost one of our members. Two days ago I wrote about the same subject I’m writing about today – learning to cry over the lost – and not one comment. Come on, people … what’s wrong here?

Listen to John cry.

 Click here.

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12 Responses to John wept.

  1. Mary Strawsma says:

    John, In the early morning I take on your writings. I sometimes forget that you can’t see my responses as though we were sitting together conversing. I too, have cried reading your work for those who need to be cried for, in empathy and even for myself. Today, I am crying for little girls…even though she be little she is fierce(Shakespeare) who are unable to stand for themselves or are termed bossy, or are demeaned because they are women. So, yes, while you don’t see us we see and we hear. More importantly, we act on those feelings.

  2. jwfisch says:

    Excellent point. Not just having these emotions but acting on them.

  3. Sandie Kunze says:

    It’s a hard thing to allow God to break your heart for those He puts in your life. Especially when all you’d like to do is break them literally! (I used to work with teens!) But once you see them through His eyes there’s no going back…or making exceptions. Oswald Chambers calls it allowing yourself to become ‘broken bread ‘ and ‘poured out wine’ for the sake of others. Years back, Amy Grant sang of having your ‘Father’s Eyes’, and Petra sang about looking into their ‘Hollow Eyes,’ and exhorted us to tell ‘Annie that Jesus loves her.’YOU sang of having to know thirst before you could give someone a cup of water…of not being able to heal a broken heart if you have never experienced one yourself. Christians talk about sharing God’s love, but do we ‘DO’ God’s love? Don Francisco sang that ‘love is not a feeling, it’s an act of your will,’ and asked some really hard questions in The Steeple Song. Even secular (I HATE that word!) artists feel the hurt and a desire to do something about that hurt – just listen to The Eagles sing There’s A Hole In The World. We need to enter into our own lives fully and bring as many as we can along with us!

  4. Peter Leenheer says:

    As a boy, I was taught not to cry. I learned it was a sign of weakness. Now that I am older and God has been working in my life, I have a lot to cry about. First of all my selfishness is worth a good cry.

    Secondly when I speak to children or youth about God and what he is like and how much he loves them, I cry. When so few who hear the message actually do something about it, I cry even harder. It reminds me of my selfishness.

    In the story of Lazarus Jesus cried over the condition you mentioned John, but I also believe he cried because of the unbelief that he found there even among his friends Mary and Martha and the other people.

    While in Mexico a few years ago, I learned that a person is guilty until proven innocent. I cried to God in prayer about that one. I also cried about how corrupt the government is there, and how little they care about the people the govern. A mexican told me the government has learned to do just enough so the people don’t riot.

    In the United States the personal and government debt is at dangerous levels and no one seems to care, so I cry. In Canada we have similar concerns, so I cry.

    I cry to God in prayer, because without him nothing is going to change.. He has ways of dealing with the issues of this life and this culture that I haven’t even noticed yet. I can imagine God having a good cry when he flooded the world because he noticed that there was no evidence inside the masterpiece that he made, us, that they gave a hoot about anyone but themselves. (Genesis 6:6,7)..

    I often feel helpless, not hopeless about the condition of the world. I begin with prayer and ask God what he wants me to do. He wanted me to start with this response, so read it and weep.. Grief must be dealt with, but action must follow. Too often I have wallowed in it., the grief that is, and that in the end is counterproductive.

    • ineke de Graaf (Australia) says:

      love what you have written! I too sometimes get overwhelmed with the incredible amount of hurt in the world- so overwhelmed it almost paralyses me. Still sometimes there are opportunities to act these days- often through lobbying online organisations- this makes me feel a little more empowered. but you are right: the only one who can really change anything is God… so I guess we keep praying and encourage other Christ- followers to do the same…
      thanks for your post!

  5. Mark Seguin says:

    i’ll try to answer this: “Come on, people … what’s wrong here?” for i can only speak 4 myself – these past few days even thou I wanted to post a comment, yet i simply didn’t have the time.. Sorry, from now on I’ll be better @ making the time to post.

  6. That was an excellent description… climbing into a box and crying. That does sum up who we are w/o God, or w/o reaching out to God. Just thinking of others who are feeling this way is a call to action. (I’ve been covered in deadlines this week, but still at least reading Catch)

  7. A week or so ago, PBS ran a 1967 special of the satiric songwriter Tom Lehrer (why he was performing in Oslo is beyond me: so many of his quips landed like sandbags on the audience); but thinking back over songs like “National Brotherhood Week”, “MLF Lullaby”, “Pollution” and even “The Vatican Rag,” I was hit hard by the fact that, in the 47 years since then, our society has progressed absolutely not at all and in some cases, has slid even further. It feels like God is standing to one side, saying, “have you had enough yet? Have you had enough yet?” It does make one cry, but then, like Jesus, withdrawing to a quiet place after learning that his cousin had been beheaded, we have to rise up and do the work that God has sent us to do.

  8. Lisa in Sunland says:

    The picture you paint of Jesus’ empathy in this Catch is so very moving. It’s one thing to hear that he went through all we went through and understands us, but another to feel it rather vividly in the word picture you “painted” for us today. Jesus deliberately crawling inside his “box” of humanity. I often pray to have break my heart what breaks the Lord’s, but if that prayer really came true, i would probably bleed out from all the breaks in my heart!

    Loved Sandie’s comment about allowing God to have your heart break for people when you would like to just break the people. Blessings on ya.

  9. Marilyn says:

    Thank you for your wonderful illustration from Frank Schaeffer. Like Mark Batterson’s Draw a Circle. We only have to go on a Missions trip and we will cry – we have to open our eyes and pray and cry before the Lord – they are lost without hope unless we share this wonderful gift we have been given. Thank you again for your heart of compassion.

  10. Andrew P. says:

    Yes, John, I cry over our society and its (and my own) brokenness. But your commentary from two days ago was — I don’t know — frustrating? I haven’t yet heard Frank’s reasons for his regret, and do not know all the context surrounding that. But while you are correct to chide your brethren for hoping in politics too much, you are not correct in abandoning politics to the spirit of the age. Would you say that the civil rights movement should simply have cried, and not tried to legislate? (I didn’t think so.) Why is it an error to attempt a political answer to the slaughter of the unborn, if it was not an error to attempt a political answer to the wrongs of racial oppression? You are painting with too broad a brush when you tar “the religious right.”

    Yes, challenge us all to cry first — the battle is not won until the culture is won over, and it will not be won over by yelling. But once again, was the civil rights movement wrong?

    “People need the Lord.” Amen!

  11. Peter Kok says:

    ……crying you say ? hardly a day goes by when someone I come across cries and cries. They live in a seniors home…they’ve lost everything…their license to drive, home, freedom, bedtimes, favorite foods, chocolate, sometimes children (yes they are alive but where are they ? ), spouse, etc. etc. and get this…..bathroom times !…try that for a while….and …why are we still living ? they ask…we aren’t any good anymore ! … tears…then I tell em…y’all just have a good cry..that’s why God made tears..and they do….we sometimes cry together…after all I like to share….

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