A mystery on the playground — and a bottle full of tears

When I stopped by the park for a visit the other day, there were only three people there: a father, his preschool son, and a middle-aged guy walking his dog. Not long after I arrived, I overheard two conversations that left me intrigued.

I saw the dad step away from the playground to retrieve his jacket that was lying in the grass, about five yards from the dog walker.

“How’s it going?” asked the dog walker.

“I’m doing all right.”

“Just all right?”

“Actually, things are awful.”

“Oh,” the dog walker said. “Well, this too shall pass.”

The dad didn’t even crack a polite smile.

“Maybe it will pass,” said the dad, “but it’s going to take a long time before it does.” Then he turned around and walked back to the playground where he resumed playing with his son.

I got up from the bench where I was sitting and walked away, giving a slight wave to the dad. He didn’t notice. He was focused on the boy.

While the man’s story remains a mystery, the grief in his voice is familiar to all of us. Many of us carry our own burdens — the heartache of things that can’t be shared, the awful news that’s far too private for a status update. It hearkens to the days of Sunday School when prayer requests were solicited and someone with downcast eyes would simply say, “Unspoken.”

In those times of pain, I remind myself that there is a heavenly Father who knows the grief of the man on the playground and He knows your grief as well. He understands because He has experienced your sorrow through His Son, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). That grieving God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NASB). To Him we can say, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle” (Isaiah 53:3, NLT).

If you are living with private pain — if you can relate to the weary sound in the young father’s voice, remember this: The Lord is acquainted with your grief. He is, with every tear, mending your crushed spirit. He is close to your broken heart. You are not alone.

Check out my book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which tells the story of how God has worked in the ordinary (and extraordinary) of my marriage — and how you can see the ways He’s working in yours too.