The phrase “having a good cry” suggests that crying can actually make you feel physically and emotionally better. Many people believe this, and some scientists agree. They assert that chemicals build up in the body during times of elevated stress, and so emotional crying is the body’s way of ridding itself of these toxins and waste products.
Some scientists also say that crying has a signaling function–a signal to others that we need their help in fighting off an aggressor. When we cry we convey the impression that we are innocent and weak – like children – and need the protection of another. Crying is a way to send a social message.
But what good do tears do? We could vocally cry for help without shedding any tears, and yet our tears are so unique to our species, a way to let others know that we are in distress precisely through showing them only the tears in our eyes.
Children, especially babies, shed many more tears than adults do which is what you expect if crying is about wanting protection. Women also cry a lot more – about four times more – than men do, and this again is what you expect because women tend to be physically weaker and more defenseless. Crying means we need understanding. We need empathy.
And what do we normally do when we see someone being tearful in our presence, signaling for our help? Our automatic response is to offer our support, because we feel empathetic toward them.
Empathy is a distinctively human characteristic, but it was first a characteristic of God, in whose image we are made. Because of His merciful empathy our Creator actually took on our human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, and for our sake submitted to a horrible and shameful death. Jesus Christ knows pain and sorrow! He relates.
When we go through terrifically hard circumstances and turn to prayer, it is often with tears that we plead for Jesus to help us.
Can we picture Jesus crying for us as well?
Why wouldn’t He—God made Man—cry when we cry? Why wouldn’t He care when we fall, or lose someone, or mess up so badly we think we can’t be fixed. And when we turn to Him, our faces streaked with tears, why wouldn’t He— out of empathy— rain even more Grace and Love upon us ?