Posted by: mikenicholsblog | December 4, 2009

tears, bottles and trust

In the course of normal reading this week, I had one of those “ I’ve never seen that before!” moments. The author was referencing a Scripture passage that conveyed the Father gathering tears in a bottle. How could I have never seen, or remembered reading that verse?! An adventure of understanding Psalm 56:8 began.

Words from Psalm 56 take us to a time when David was seized by the Philistines at a place called Gath. Even a quick read of the chapter will paint a portrait of the dire straits he was facing. Men were pursuing him, mercy was needed and yet his words showed great trust. But what about those tears in a bottle?

Psalm 56:8 (KJV)
Thou numberest my wanderings;
put thou my tears into thy bottle.
Are they not in thy book?

Psalm 56:8 (NIV)
Record my lament; list my tears on
your scroll-are they not in your record?

Psalm 56:8 (MSG)
You’ve kept track of my every toss
and turn through the sleepless nights,
each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.

From the masterful work of Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David we find words about the tears and the bottle.

“The custom in old times was, when a person was ill
or in great distress, for his friends to go see him, and
take with them a tear bottle. Then, as the tears rolled
down the cheeks of the sufferer, they were caught in these
bottles, sealed up, and preserved as a memorial of the event.”

Great care was shown for the sufferer. Greater care is shown by the Father when tears flow. David would have understood tear bottles and how they were used. Let your mind’s eye view a portrait of David in great difficulty, with tears running down his face. In your view of the portrait, can you see God’s tear bottle catching each drop? Understanding all the riches of Psalm 56:8 would take more than a brief post.  but viewing the landscape of God’s care is easily seen.

Can you relate to tossing and turning through a sleepless night? Have you ever had tears fill your eyes when emotion overtook logic? In those moments, how did you view the Father’s care? Although you may have great security in your relationship with the Lord, often in those tear bottle moments you don’t picture the Father’s care. Only the gravity of the current circumstance. But viewing David’s portrait from just a slightly different angle gives us the dimension of depth that can be gleaned from David’s life. I can see tears, a tear bottle and trust.

Let the Word from Psalm 56:3-4 complete the picture.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
In God whose word I praise, in God I
trust; I will not be afraid. What can
mortal man do to me?”

So in the most difficult of times, even when tears may flow and sleep may be hard, David has given us two fresh brush strokes that can be used on the canvas of our lives. Trust when logic would say otherwise, and praise when fear would be the normal response. Embrace the current landscape of you journey by realizing that David’s example can be followed. But far greater is the truth that in tear bottle moments, God cares deeply for you as He is completes the portrait of your life.

When the next tear falls from your eyes, remember the tear bottle.


  1. mike

    very nice reflection—my family’s tear bottles have been used over the past few months

    it was nice to have lunch with you this past week


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