Tears in a Bottle

by Carole Holiday August 22, 2023
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:8 (ESV)

When I was a little girl, long before I understood poetry and literary symbolism, I took Psalm 56:8 quite literally. I imagined God in a giant apothecary with amber bottles lined up in a row, one with my name on it. It gave me comfort.

But during times when I cried a great deal, like when my cat died or I skinned my knees playing football in the street with my brother, I did wonder if my bottle was big enough to contain all the salty tears that flowed down my face.

Now I smile thinking of that apothecary in the sky, but I also think about the precious things that I kept in little jars when I was a child — my baby teeth, my birth bracelet with pink beads, locks of my baby sister’s hair that my parents had clipped before she died. I kept them so carefully, secreting them away from others’ eyes and hiding them from some who might not understand their value to me.

Oh, that’s what He’s doing with my tears, I reasoned, holding them as precious, valuable, unique in their worth, hidden from others who might hurt me for counting them as special. That’s what He means about storing them and recording their presence. He remembers them when no one else does.

In the deep days of my grieving, mourning losses in my marriage, financial stability and health, I couldn’t help but wonder aloud how the body could keep making such endless tears. Would they ever stop?

And when you have cried alone in your bed at night, dear one, I’ll bet you’ve wondered if there would be an end to your tears as well. Or enough jars to hold them.

Please know you aren’t alone. Remember what David, the great king of Israel, a man after God's own heart, wrote in our key verse to comfort himself and to give meaning to his despair:

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8).

I suppose the “Are they not in your book?” part was a rhetorical question. A question posed to create a dramatic effect — an emphasis — or to underscore a point more than to get an actual answer. David knew that his tears could be trusted with his Lord. He knew that his tears were not discounted or forgotten or without merit.

Every time your heart breaks, God creates space for you. He counts, stores and records everything about your sadness. When the world doesn’t know how to respond to your grief, God honors it.

And to know that the God of the universe cares about your pain makes it a little more bearable.

Lord, my heart feels so heavy with sadness. I don’t think my tears will ever stop. Help me to believe that You care about each of them. Help me not to isolate myself because I don’t think anyone could understand. I trust that You will go before me and make the way straight for me to walk through this. You are my strength and my shield and my deliverer, especially in this valley. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


For a practical guide to navigating grief, grab a copy of Carole Holiday’s book, I Don’t Know Who I Am Anymore: Restoring Your Identity Shattered by Grief and Loss.



“How do I help a friend with a broken heart?” Carole hears that a lot. She’s put together a guide called “10 Helpful Tips to Walk a Friend through Heartache” that you can download on her website. You can also stay connected with Carole on Instagram.


Hebrews 5:7-9, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him …” (ESV).

Read these two other New Testament verses where Jesus openly expressed sadness: John 11:35 and Luke 19:41. Reflect on how it makes you feel to know that the incarnate God, Jesus, shed tears like you and me. Would you feel more secure if He were “above it all,” or does this expression of Jesus’ humanity comfort you? Share with us in the comments!

© 2023 by Carole Holiday. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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