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God Weeps

2007 October 23
by Mike

“When God looks at our world, God weeps. God weeps because the lust for power has entrapped and corrupted the human spirit. Instead of gratitude there is resentment, instead of praise there is criticism, instead of forgiveness there is revenge, instead of healing there is wounding, instead of compassion there is competition, instead of cooperation there is violence, and instead of love there is immense fear.

“God weeps when God looks at our beautiful planet and sees thousands of maimed bodies lying on the battlefields, lonely children roaming the streets of big cities, prisoners locked behind bars and thick walls, mentally ill men and women wasting their time in the wards of large institutions, and millions of people dying from starvation and neglect. God weeps because God knows the agony and anguish we have brought upon ourselves by wanting to take our destiny in our own hands and lord it over others.”

– Henri Nouwen

20 Responses leave one →
  1. Josh Ross permalink
    October 23, 2007

    I preached Noah and the flood last week. I think you preached the same story at your place.

    I spent some time with Genesis 6:6, “And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it GRIEVED HIM to his heart.” The Message interprets this, “It broke his heart.” Brueggemann writes, “What we find there is not an angry tyrant, but a troubled parent who grieves over the alienation.”

    As a Christ-follower who happens to be a preacher, I knew that I could do something with that. There was good news there.

  2. October 23, 2007

    First, love the quote.

    Second, and a bit off topic, but it’s been on my mind and the post title “God Weeps” is theologically provocative:

    Ever since a class I taught on Hosea at Highland a few weeks ago I’ve been thinking of the doctrine of Divine Impassibility. That is, can God rightly experience emotions? I believe so, and many will grant this. But what might this imply? Can God’s emotions sway His plans? If not, then what is the point of having/experiencing emotions? Emotions always have a motive/behavioral aspect (what psychologists call an “action tendency”) to them. If so, God’s “intention” might be pushed against by God’s emotion, resulting in a conflicted God with, as we say, “mixed” emotions.

    I don’t have answers to all this, but I find the prospect of an “emotional God” to be quite interesting. Which is probably why some (via the doctrine of divine impassibility) think it proper (and safer!) to banish them from the nature of God.

  3. October 24, 2007

    I think the idea of an “emotional” God is very interesting as well. More so, I believe, is the idea, that we, as humans, can cause Him to “change His mind”, so to speak. The first couple of examples that come to mind are Abraham pleading for Sodom, and Moses pleading for the Israelites after he comes down from Sinai. These are both situations where God says He is going to do something, but after hearing the request of one of His followers, He seems to change His mind.

  4. Troy permalink
    October 24, 2007

    I guess I’m more hesitant to put words in God’s mouth or emotions in His heart. The implication of the quote by Nouwen is that God did not anticipate that sin would become so prevalent. In fact, the opposite is true. God has always known how sin would consume this world. His first provision was the offering of His son on the cross. His second provision is sending his Son back on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. Jesus says in Mathew 24:12, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

    This gives new meaning to a happy ending.

  5. Traci permalink
    October 24, 2007

    There is a great children’s book called The Giver by Lois Lowry. I use “children” lightly here, it is for a more mature teen. In it the community has given up feeling emotion so that they can not be hurt. They give up all memory of pain, war, hunger, disease, handicaps, but also have to give up all memory of love, beauty, peace. They do not truly live because they can not truly feel. I know God feels; he loves; he weeps; he rejoices. I would rather he be a God who feels both pleasure and displeasure and has to determine to do what is right, than a God who feels nothing so that doing right is not a real choice.

  6. October 24, 2007

    Wow. Good stuff.

    I read The Giver. Good application of it.

    I suppose I’ve always associated our emotions with part of our creation in the image of God. As we seek transformation into his image our emotions will begin to align with his and the fallen emotions purged.

    In other words, our emotions won’t be controlled by the flesh, but by his Spirit. How can the Spirit of God produce certain emotional characteristics (Galatians 5) without providing a source for such emotions? Just rambling here.

    Good thought provoking stuff. Thanks.

  7. October 24, 2007

    The prophets of the Old Testament bring quite a bit to this discussion. Specifically, God’s decision to punish both Israel and Judah for their actions included “emotional” language from both prophet and God. We often talk about Jeremiah as the “weeping prophet.” But, God also weeps for people. I believe when we choose power, violence, oppression, and idolatry over servanthood, peace, hospitality, and loyalty, God grieves over our condition. If we, who are made in the divine image, have emotions by nature, doesn’t that mean God does too?

  8. October 24, 2007

    Let me say Mike excellent post brother.

    I sometimes wonder if we are closer to end than we have first believed. Is the end near?

    I wonder if God look down instead hold backs his judgements and wrath, and in patience waits for one more to repent. One more to come to know him before he lets the trumpets sound.

    Are we closer than we first believed? California burning, Wars in Arabia, Nukes in North Koria, Russia, China sending lead painted toys to our children, violence on the rise, greed, disobedient childen, terror has filled the world, roaring and tossing of the seas, and on and on. We need to be read. It is going to be close, so we as Christians need to be read and share the message with our family and friends.

  9. October 24, 2007

    I would be interested to see the date of the quote. I also think a more appropriate title may be, “God has been weeping.” I don’t think we can look at world events today and say, “The end is nearer than ever.” All those sad, tragic things have been going on for a long time. When the NT was written, Nouwen’s quote would have been just as profound and relevant then as it is now.

    I think God has been weeping since Adam and Eve gave in to the serpent. I also think He has been rejoicing when He sees His children offer a cup of water to those in need. Is this world sick? Absolutely. Is it sicker today than in years past? I don’t think so. Should we be ready for Christ’s return? Absolutely, but not because we are at war in Iraq. We should be ready because He said He is coming.

    “Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

  10. October 24, 2007

    Yes. Amen. COme quickly, Lord Jesus.”

  11. October 24, 2007

    I have long been facinated by the reaction of Jesus upon meeting Mary after Lazarus died. Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead and still he reacted emotionally to the grief and painful emotions that Lazarus’ friends and family were feeling. Since Jesus showed us characteristics of who God is while he was on earth, then God must feel our emotion – pain, grief, joy, elation, etc. and react to it also. Praise God for emphathizing with our human emotions!

  12. October 24, 2007

    What fascinates me is the implicit notion (that is, mildly implied by some posts on this thread up to now) that ascribing emotional content to anyone, including God, somehow weakens him. Is not emotion an aspect of the soul, which mediates the physical/spiritual interface? I’m no phenomenologist or philosopher or whatever, and maybe I’m speaking way beyond my competence, but emotion and will seem to be two sides of that membrane between spirit and flesh. Maybe that’s just circular-semantic reasoning, tho.

    As for qb, qb has a hard time imagining a God who is NOT possessed of emotional faculties.


  13. October 24, 2007

    We certainly know God’s emotions when faced by the rebellious Children of Israel – so many times He showed His anger, not only did it burn against them but also against their enemies. I’d be reluctant to ascribe only the emotion of anger to our God without also accepting that the other side of His nature, love – the most powerful of all emotions, is expressed in His tears, His weeping. Not only will our tears be wiped away in the other side of eternity but His also.

    God weeps for His children out of His love for them and we mirror His love when we weep for our children. It is from love that weeping is birthed, at least imho.

  14. October 24, 2007

    BTW, it’s Sox 3, Rox 0 after 1.5 innings. Bad omen for this Rockies fan. Maybe it’s too early to give up the ship, but qb’s on record now: Sox in 4. The miracle run is over.


  15. October 24, 2007

    13-1. *sigh* qb

  16. Scott permalink
    October 24, 2007

    I wonder if we, as Moderns, don’t consider rational thought as the “norm” and emotion as the “add-on” that influences our rational thought. Maybe God, unhindered by sin, exists in a perfect unity in which emotion and ration no longer have any separate meaning–they are, together, the mind of God. If anything is, then, an “add-on” to potentially influence God, it might be our prayers (as emotionally disturbed and as rationally falacious as they are). In this sense, the idea of God being of “mixed emotions” would be impossible. God’s emotion would be perfectly appropriate at any given moment… as is his will and his reason.

    I think our fallen state enables us to live dualistic lives in many ways that are unhealthy: flesh / spirit, transactional / transformative, emotional / rational, selfish / graceful, etc…

    The Nature of God is perfect unity of being– including, of course, what we would call emotion.

  17. October 24, 2007

    qb – one game does not a WS make.

    Those in the know said two things about tonight’s game:

    1-Beckett has been unbeatable, so Rockies can look for a split in these two games in Fenway.

    2-Had they beaten Beckett [but really slim chance of it happening] it would be a huge psychological boost that could put the Rockies into a 4 game sweep. [of course, didn’t happen]

    I leaned toward the first possibility. Beckett is almost impossible to beat. I wouldn’t have been surprised at a no-no tonight, but certainly glad there wasn’t one. Whew!

  18. October 25, 2007

    I hope you’re right, Kathy, but that’s only 0.5 of the equation. The other part pertains to the Red Sox bats and the Rockies’ pitching, and if a rested ace plus a vaunted ‘pen are going to yield double digits, it’s not going to matter whether we can get to Schilling or not.

    Yeah, there’s still hope, but the Sox bats are on a serious roll. Maybe Jimemez can step up and throw the wet blanket on them.


  19. October 25, 2007

    “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel?…I have had a change of heart; My compassion is stirred!” (Hosea 11:8 CSB). God has a heart and that heart can be changed. “His heart is touched with my grief” (Hymn, “Does Jesus Care?”).

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