This post was originally published on January 19, 2014. Minor changes have been made.
A very dear and stalwart friend of mine opened up about a secret pain she had been carrying. It was difficult for her to do—she has always defined herself as faithful and strong–not the kind of woman who ever needed support, but one who was accustomed to giving it. But a heart-breaking miscarriage made her crumble spiritually, and she needed help from her friends and family. So she opened up and let out her agony. But in doing so she made a defensive pre-requisite: “If anyone tells me it’s part of the plan, I will scream.” So her friends and family understood—she needed time to weep.
Having an understanding of our Heavenly Father’s Plan is a comfort and a blessing. It tells us who we are, why we are here, and where we are going. It grounds our heritage in divinity and secures our eternity together with our families and with a loving Father in Heaven if we are faithful and keep his commandments. It offers peace and security in this life. But it does not shelter us from pain, nor does it expect us to ignore pain when we feel it. So why do we think we are not allowed to weep?
Jesus Wept When His Friend Died
When Mary and Martha found their brother Lazarus dead, Martha ran to find Jesus. She told him of the tragedy. In her agony she said to him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” What came next is one of the most profound quotes in all of scripture. “Jesus wept.” Think about the enormity of this statement. The only begotten son of God, the one perfect being on earth, the only one who could make miracles happen, Jesus Christ—first wept at the news of his dear friend’s death.
He knew who he was. He knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. He could have instantly told Martha to stop her crying. But instead he cried too. He cried with her. He cried for her brother’s death. He cried for Himself, no doubt, for Lazarus was a good friend to Jesus. And after he cried, he applied the atonement and gave life back to his dear friend.
We shouted for joy to come to earth before we were born. We knew we would experience all of the wonders Earth life had to offer. This included the broad spectrum of emotions from happiness to sorrow, and everything in between. So again, I ask, why do we think we are not allowed to weep?
Crying Cleanses Us
It has been said, “Where much is given, much is required.” Having a secure grounding in the gospel is like being given much. And so along with this comes the required part—being strong for the Savior’s sake—the only gift we can give back. We worry then when we are weak in spirit, we may not be able to give back as we do when we are strong. We try to “get strong again” as best we can by taking comfort in the gospel truths we’ve come to adore. But if we first follow Christ’s lead, and allow ourselves to weep before we apply the atonement, a miracle in our heart can take place. The weeping cleanses our heart. It makes it clean again to allow the healing to take place.
Imagine a scrape on your knee. You would never think to dress it without cleaning it first. Likewise, weeping cleanses the heart so the atonement can dress it, preserve it, and make it whole. But remember, both are necessary for complete healing, and a proper balance is vital.
In spiritual healing of the painful moments in our lives, be they loss of a loved one, illness, infertility, betrayal, wayward children, or anything else, we must first allow our hearts to weep, then apply the atonement. Our prophets have counseled us to be happy, so be careful not to dwell in weepiness. But give yourself the time you need to grieve. Let your friends and family remind you this is normal. Cry in prayer to your Father in Heaven with all your heart. But when you finish your prayer, let him know you are still faithful to him. He will be grateful for this and he will bless you with the strength to carry on.
Jesus wept. And so must we.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.