Farm-raised people like me have a lot of nostalgia about our rural origins, for good reason. But it was a dicey existence. The weather was our master, the determiner of success or failure of the crops that got planted in the spring. The crop could be doomed from the start, because of too much rain or not enough rain. Or you could have perfect growing conditions, sail into August with gorgeous wheat, and lose it in ten minutes in a severe hailstorm. I remember well my parents’ sense of loss and discouragement when the crop failed. But no matter what happened the previous season, farmers were back to plowing and seeding the following spring, with hope in their hearts. Successful farmers could point back to year after year of true grit.
Big things get accomplished by patiently working day after day, week after week, season after season, no matter how tired, discouraged, hopeless, fed up, or frightened you are. You just have to keep going, whether it’s farming, parenting children, working on marriage, going to work – you name it.
The hardest time to keep putting one foot in front of another is when you’re in tears, literally or figuratively, because something in your life is broken. You can’t see through the tears to where your next step should be. The future looks bleak. When I’m in that situation, it’s tempting to stay in bed (literally), pull the blanket over my head, (or better yet, stick my head in a bag of chocolate chips), and wait it out. I’ll be productive when it’s over, and when I feel better. Knowing I’ll feel worse after the bag of chocolate is no deterrent, because reason has fled.
The problem is, life moves on while I’m huddled under my blanket. Some things still have to get done. So how do I keep going, doing the right thing day after day, when things seem hopeless and sad and way too hard? Why even try?
Disclaimer: I don’t spend the majority of my life as a helpless, weeping mess. I don’t need an intervention. But let’s be honest – a woman my age knows that life is peppered with sudden gut-punches and long, painful situations that seem to have no resolution. We have to learn how to live in that reality while keeping our sense of discipline and proportion. So what makes us come out from under the blanket and keep plowing ahead?
Thank God for Psalm 126, proof that His word doesn’t sidestep reality. Weeping is assumed. But don’t camp out on the second half of the Psalm until you understand the set-up of the first half. The writer is rejoicing over the restored community of Israel, possibly after the Babylonian exile. This was a 70-year period when God’s people were far from home and their beloved Jerusalem, weeping for what they’d lost. When they finally returned home it felt like a dream, and they rejoiced in what God had done for them. Now it’s time for vs. 5-6:
Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow
Will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him.
At least some of the exiles remained faithful to God during the
exile. Some of them, knowing they would probably never see their homeland again, looked to the future and taught their children about the Redeemer. They were in tears, yet they worshiped. They kept doing the right thing during the long crisis, and the reward was a harvest of joy. But if they had not, there would have been no harvest and no joy.
This tells me that the obedience I show, the worship I engage in, the trust I place in the great God of the universe, even through my tears, will lead to songs of joy. I will carry the sheaves, the harvest, in my own hands. Some harvests I will get to carry in this life, and some I won’t. But I can look forward to the day I see Him face to face, and He wipes every tear from my eyes. Jesus, the one who died for me, knows better than anyone about sowing in tears, for that is what the cross was. And he returned on the third day with songs of joy.
Tears? We’re in for a lot of those. But we have the promise of joy if only we will keep planting.