"It's okay to cry," Leslie whispered.
We were having lunch at a favorite restaurant, talking about how work was crowding in on our social calendar, as well as our marriage. Then out of nowhere, or so it seemed, Leslie's eyes flooded with tears.
"I know it's okay to cry," I confessed, "but can't you wait until we get in the car?" My request only heightened the emotion I was trying to stifle. Leslie dabbed at her eyes with a napkin, trying to preserve her mascara, but the tears were soon flowing again.
I can't tell you how many times we have experienced similar scenes, and often neither of us could tell you what the issues were. But tears are a part of every marriage, and it's a good thing. Research has shown that tears contain chemicals related to stress. More than a decade ago, a Minnesota biochemist conducted the first landmark research on the chemical composition of tears. He was able to isolate prolactin, which is released by the pituitary gland during times of emotional intensity.
Today, specialists agree that when we cry we are actually "washing away" harmful effects of stress. William Fry, in his book Crying: The Mystery of Tears, suggests that women, whom society allows to cry more freely, are able to excrete their "stress waste" more readily than men, who are conditioned to block this natural cleansing system.
While scientists are only now discovering the benefits of crying, God understood them from the beginning. Did you know that God keeps a record of our tears? The Psalmist says they are listed on a scroll (Ps. 56:8). Our tears reveal the depth of our pain, and God cares when we are suffering even if we can't express it in words or articulate it in prayer.1