‘Those Who Sow in Tears Will Reap with Shouts of Joy'

    (Psalm 126:5)

How does that image of sowing in tears resonate with your experience over this past year? 2021 has been a tough year for us as a country, for us as a church, and perhaps a difficult year for you personally… We have made it through to the end of the year, but for some of us it has been a struggle and we have only just got there. Along the way most of us have experienced some kind of loss, but we have steeled ourselves to carry on. Yet in our hearts there are tears that are waiting to be shed when the time allows.

Christmas can be difficult, because there is an expectation that this is the season to be jolly. And in Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, there is plenty of joy -Zechariah, John the Baptist, Mary, Elizabeth, her neighbours and family, the shepherds (and everyone else besides). But in Matthew’s account, although the wise men are overjoyed to find Jesus, we also have Rachel weeping for her dead children. So as this year draws to a close, allow yourself the emotional space and time to lament. ‘If you are really upset or sorry about something, you might lament it. A lament is full of regret and grief’ (vocabulary.com). Sorrow has its place. If God expected us to be positive and cheerful all the time, the Bible would not include the Book of Lamentations. Prayer is about putting our emotions into words (if we can – Romans 8:26), and all God asks is that we are genuine with him about how we feel. And maybe it would be right to talk about how you feel with someone else, so that whether we are rejoicing or weeping, we share in that emotion together.

The image of sowing in tears is deeply evocative. Those who sow in tears do not have an abundance of grain to plant for the coming year. Their resources are so limited that they barely have enough to feed themselves, yet from those depleted resources they need to set aside some grain to sow, and find the energy to go out and clear the weeds, plough up the soil and sow the grain. Sowing is costly in all sorts of ways. Yet giving up is simply not an option. So this verse is a call to faithfulness when perhaps it feels as if we can’t go on much further.

And what about a joyful harvest in 2022? Well, that is in God’s hands, not ours. So our part is to keep on sowing – and praying: and trusting: ‘Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb’ (Psalm 126:4).

Tim Carter