Consolation Beyond a Smile – Tears of Consolation

July 9, 2023

If you are like me, you’ve shed tears of happiness at some point in your lifetime.  But have you ever shed tears of consolation?  I’ll bet you have, and you didn’t realize it at the time.  There is a difference between tears of happiness and tears of consolation.  The former are fairly common in life, the latter are a true grace from God.  Let’s explore that a bit more.

Tears are cleansing, whether shed in sadness or happiness.  Often these tears are anticipated.  When we experience something beautiful, or pleasant, or have an especially exciting experience, we usually can expect to shed happy tears.  But consolation tears, now that’s a different thing.  When we experience these tears, it is often a complete, unsolicited surprise.  My experience is that it happens when I least expect it.  These surprise tears are not jolting, but rather, they come with a profound peace, sense of well-being, and interior silence.  

Consolation tears are different from regular tears in that consolation tears come from the gift of joy which is a gift from God.  Joy is not the same as happiness. Author Irma Zaleski writes that in the language of religion, joy is not a merely human emotion but a spiritual experience.  It is a “fruit of the Holy Spirit,” a grace.  Joy is a holy mystery.  It comes from beyond us (God),  but It also comes from a place deep inside us (our Inner Chapel, the place where we meet God).

True joy is a form of spiritual consolation.  It’s a heartfelt experience of God.  Even so, joy can come in small doses in everyday life – in a whisper and in a sudden sense of the mystery that is God.  Joy is an experience of consolation that takes us out of ourselves and into the infinite love of God.  

My most profound experience of consolation tears happened when I was at the beach.  I had gotten up early to watch the sunrise and take a few pictures of the blue heron that stayed  near the condo.  As the orange glow of the sun started to rise over the horizon, I raised my camera to take a picture.  Just then, I was so completely present to the spectacular beauty of the colors, I couldn’t take the picture.  It was as though my whole being was drawn into what was happening in the sunrise, in the area around me, while at the same time I felt as though I was the only one in the universe.  I felt engulfed in the present moment and the present place.  And before I realized it, I had tears streaming down my cheeks.  

This was a God moment.  As I stood there, both mesmerized by the sight and caught up in the experience, I had a feeling that my heart was connected with God’s heart.  I felt connected with all creation.  I felt humbled and graced to be such a small part of God’s majesty, but I also felt the enormity of God’s grandeur.  At that time, no thoughts were thought, no words spoken, no pictures taken.  God’s consolation was in me, running through me as a deep, overwhelming peace. I’m not sure how long I stayed in this moment of consolation, but when the tears stopped and I became grounded again in beach sounds and breezes, I realized I had been given the gift of consolation deep in my heart.. 

I’ve had other similar experiences of consoling tears: once at a traffic light (I know, crazy, right?), while cooking, and while walking in the rain.  All these were complete surprises, all were deep connections with God and God’s creation.  I believe God desires each of us to shed consoling tears.  God’s love is generous, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring us joy-filled tearful moments.  Such moments are, as they say, the gift that keeps on giving, for they are a reminder of God’s consoling presence.  


Going Deeper:

  • Read Charlotte Phillips’ blog article “What is Consolation?”, posted on, June 5, 2023
  • Read Mary Ann Gessner’s blog article “Rest in the Peace of God’s Hands”, posted on June 12, 2023.
  • Read Traveling Your Road to Joy in the series “Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton, edited by Jonathan Montaldo and Robert G. Toth, published by Ave Maria Press.
  • Read Inner Chapel  by Becky Eldredge, published by  Loyola Press.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Melinda is an Ignatian-trained Spiritual Director who is passionate about helping others deepen their relationship with God through individual direction, group faith sharing, and retreats. She received her certification in Spiritual Direction from the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center in New Orleans in 2012. She also holds a Master's of Pastoral Studies degree from Loyola University. Most recently, she served as spiritual director and campus minister at Christ the King parish at LSU and was on staff at the St. Joseph Spirituality Center. She also serves in the Women of the Well ministry and is currently on the board of the Louisiana Association of Spiritual Directors. She and her husband Darrel live in Baton Rouge and enjoy birdwatching and fishing.

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