Sighs and Tears: Imitating the Emotional Life of Jesus

by Timothy Shorey
May 22, 2020

I came to Mark 7:12 in my Bible reading today. There we are told that when enemies of Jesus came to argue with him, “he sighed deeply in his spirit.” That is worth noting. Jesus sighed deeply in his spirit; the sigh of grief and weariness; the sigh of sadness and longing; the sigh that yearns for others to hear and understand; the sigh that wonders when others will “get it”; the sigh of indignation-longing-for-vindication that happens when sin continues and justice delays.

In Matthew 17:17, Jesus wearily cries, “How long?”. In Hebrews 5:7, he “prays with loud cries and tears.” In Matthew 26:3738, he is “sorrowful and troubled”; so much so that he feels like he is going to die of grief. In John 11:33, he is “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled”; language that describes indignation and moral outrage (in the face of Satan’s murderous ways that brought death to his friend; John 8:44), mixed with profound bone-aching sadness. The words used in these texts sometimes speak of a sobbing and throbbing sorrow, the sobbing lament of a heart throbbing with weariness, sadness, and indignation.

Jesus felt sorrows so deeply that they produced exhausted sighs, longings for it all to be over, sobbing tears, and profound ministry and life fatigue. And if Jesus felt and expressed all of this, so may we. We may sigh and groan when we feel:

  • The delay or denial of justice.
  • The sword-thrust of racism.
  • The calamity of a pandemic.
  • The ravages of a virus.
  • The death of a loved one.
  • The loss of a job or business.
  • The wrath of a spouse.
  • The end of a marriage.
  • The wandering of a child.
  • The perversions of the powerful.
  • The slander of an enemy.
  • The mockery of our faith.
  • The brazenness of the ungodly.
  • The weakness of the flesh.
  • The abandonment of a parent.
  • The loneliness of rejection.
  • The bondage of addiction.
  • The dark night of depression.

Friend: for all of these reasons and more, it’s okay to be tired and too long for heaven. You don’t have to be always happy and peppy, always smiling, always strong, always the one with the bouncing happy feet. This is not to endorse despair or pessimism or glass half empty negativism—for Jesus always kept his hope and joy. But it is to say that often, his joy was mingled with sighs and tears. He was a “man of sorrows,” very much “acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).

As Paul puts it in describing his own emotional life, we are, and we are permitted to be in 2 Corinthians 4:8-106:910:

Afflicted in every way, but not crushed.

Perplexed, but not driven to despair.

Persecuted, but not forsaken.

Struck down, but not destroyed.

As dying, yet we live.

Carrying death in our bodies, but life in our souls.

Sorrowful, but always rejoicing.

Poor, yet making many rich.

Having nothing; yet possessing everything.

Such was the emotional life of Jesus and his apostles. And it is the emotional life of all who love Jesus and live between two worlds; the broken world that now is, and the coming world where everything will be made new. Let us feel free to cry, to long, to sigh, to be confused, to mourn, and to groan. But let us never forget that before too long, the morning will break over a whole new eternal Day.

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