When Doves Cry, A Remix

In early July, 2016, I preached a sermon at NWLife called “When Doves Cry.” This is a portion of that sermon, slightly remixed…

There was something about Prince’s song “When Doves Cry” that resonated with me as a young man. I wasn’t even sure what it all meant, but it seemed to speak of the pain experienced in relationships, of break-up, of tears….

“How can you just leave me standing?

Alone in a world that’s so cold?

Maybe I’m just too demanding

Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold

Maybe you’re just like my mother

She’s never satisfied

Why do we scream at each other

This is what it sounds like

When doves cry”

It’s so visceral, relatable, universal.

We have felt this. Lived it.

But do doves cry?

Or pigeons for that matter?

I read an article that claimed Prince was right. Doves can cry.

Then it goes on to explain how birds, and doves specifically, can and do produce tears.

But then it says there’s no way to know if birds produce tears because of grief.

Um. OK. Not really helpful.

The scientist quoted in the article moves on to the issue of whether or not they make a sound when crying…

“As for a sound, I suspect that grieving doves—if they do grieve—probably produce tears silently.”

Well, it’s kinda poetic. What does it sound like when doves cry? Silence.

Here’s a question: does God cry?

First, let’s talk about God singing…

Zephaniah 3.17 says, “The Lord rejoices over you with singing.”

How cool is that?  You make God sing.  And it’s a song of joy, God is rejoicing over you. With song.

I imagine just the fact that we are. That we exist. That we live.

The fact that we are God’s creation and we have been made in God’s image and likeness… that we are the children of God…

This is all He needs to sing.

And yet, I wonder if we sometimes elicit greater songs of joy, of shouts and raucous celebration?

Like when we live how Jesus taught us to live…

When we live generously

When we live without fear

When we live peacefully

When we welcome others

When we contribute to life – to the flourishing of all lives.

I like to imagine this brings the song of the Spirit to that special place… you know how songs do – hitting that crescendo. Or in more modern music: we call it the drop.

You know, the boom.

So if God sings, does God also cry?

I know in the book of Genesis God looked out and saw the violence and wickedness of mankind and it says God grieved.

And this is God telling the prophet Jeremiah what to say…

“My eyes pour out tears. Day and night, the tears never quit…” (Jeremiah 14.17)

It would seem the answer to the question is yes.
God cries.

Remember in the Gospels when Jesus finally arrived at Mary and Martha’s place… their brother Lazarus had been sick and then died.

When He entered the place, he felt the grief they were experiencing. He shared in their Grief.

It’s the shortest verse in Scripture.

John 11.35 says, “Jesus wept.”

What is it that causes God to cry?

Well, all that trends toward death and destruction grieves the Holy Spirit. 

And all that leans toward life, all that contributes to the flourishing of life, all that brings and blesses life… the Spirit sings over this.

So in Genesis chapter 6, when it says the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and it grieved Him….

I think we can safely say, Yes. God cried.

And in Europe during the crusades, Christian soldiers en route to the Holy Land slaughtered Jews on the way. Some were herded into their synagogues. Cries of anguish rose to the heavens as these wooden buildings were torched. And God cried. 

In Europe between 1204-1799 when Protestant blood flowed freely in Roman Catholic countries. The victims of this so-called “Holy Inquisition” totaled in the millions. And God cried.

In the Christian world of 1490-1850, over 20 million black Africans were killed in the middle passage on the way to slave markets for purchase white Christians. And God cried.

In Europe between 1941-1945, 6 million Jews were hunted, hounded, driven out, butchered, gassed, and burned in the Holocaust. And God cried.

In Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb claimed the lives of 129,558 victims and it terrified the world. And God cried.

In the world between 1914-1996, over 175 million were killed as the result of insane policies of their own governments. And God cried.

In 2020, the black bodies of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were killed by white men who, as poet Claudia Rankine said, couldn’t “police their imagination. And God cried.

I know this is heavy.

Perhaps it should be.

Not every song can be Little Red Corvette.

Sometimes we need to hear “When Doves Cry”

Ephesians 4.30 says, “It’s time to stop bringing grief to God’s Holy Spirit.”

Or perhaps you’re more familiar with the old translation:

Grieve not the Holy Spirit.


All that trends toward death and destruction grieves the Holy Spirit. 

And all that leans toward life, all that contributes to the flourishing of life, all that brings and blesses life… the Spirit sings over this.

Our challenge today is…

To be someone who makes the Spirit sing (I don’t want to make doves cry).


Spirit of God

You are welcome


As a dove

Descending, hovering

You ride upon the wings of wind

Holy Spirit

You sing with joy over your people—and all living things

Where there is life, you sing

You delight in all that is made

Your song is the sound of beauty

Of mystery, wonder, and creativity

For you are the Creative One

Spirit of God

We welcome your song

Move us with your inspired sound

Move us from death to life

Move us from fear toward faith

Move us from violence toward making peace

Move us from greed toward generosity

Move us from isolation into the beloved community

Move us from hate to love

Move us, Move us, Move us

Holy Spirit of God, we pray

Move us with your song

As you sing over us


I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

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