Tears in a Bottle

We saw and learned so much on our trip to Israel, it’s hard to absorb it all. But one custom that grabbed my attention was that of collecting tears in bottles, jars, and cups. As I stood beside the display of tear jars and bottles, I couldn’t help thinking of all the tears that have been shed over centuries for various reasons. Did a mother grieving the death of a child fill more than one bottle with her tears? Did barren women pour tears into jars daily? Did a young widow touch her tear bottle and dream of what might have been?

The Purpose of Tears

Tears have multiple purposes: they lubricate the eyes, fight off bacteria, and wash out irritants. Beyond that, tears resulting from emotions are triggered by the brain. Emotional tears release stress and are self-calming, even if, like me, emotional tears leave you with a stopped up nose or a headache.

Emotional tears aren’t just related to grief. Have you ever shed tears of joy or laughed so hard you cried? Yet ancient tear jars were not for joyful tears.

Saving Tears

The custom of saving tears in bottles dates back over 3000 years. The use of tear jars was prevalent in Middle Eastern societies, in ancient Rome, and later, during the Victorian era and the American Civil War. Mourners filled tear jars or cups and placed them at burial sites to show respect and love.

In the Victorian era, ornate tear bottles were topped with a stopper that allowed the tears to evaporate. The mourning period was over when evaporation was complete.

While the custom of saving tears is unique and interesting, it also ties one to the past. Ultimately, we must move beyond the sources of tears, glimpse what is next, and decide to step into the future.


A New Day Dawns

Sometimes, we get stuck counting our tears and recounting the situations that precipitated them. Yet, eventually, the time comes to dry tears, look ahead, and reignite forward motion. God knows how many tears we’ve shed and the reasons behind those tears. God understands the pain we’ve suffered and the heartache we’ve experienced, but he doesn’t want us to live in a perpetual state of sadness, grief, and despair. God gives us the courage and strength to replace tear jars with joy. Let today be the day you discover new sources of inspiration, hope, and encouragement as you move forward with life.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8 NLT).


Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving through, and beyond, difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

To receive Candy’s blog, Forward Motion, via email, go to https://candyarrington.com/blog/ and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.



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  1. Thank you Candy , I think I have filled a tub with my tears since the shock of our son Andrew’s death end of November! This was very interesting about the tear bottles . I knew the Scripture verse but did not know about the bottles in different eras ! Blessings to you xo

    1. Dear Katie, I know you have cried a river since your son’s death. Yours is a heart-wrenching journey, but God is walking it with you. Love and prayers!

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