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Sow Sorrow, Reap Rejoicing

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” Psalm 126:5

If your soul is weary today, then the Psalmist would like to have a word with you.

If you have prayed and worked and served and prayed some more about something or someone—with no apparent fruitful outcome—then the psalmist would like to fortify your soul with a certain hope. He wants to remind you that you are in a season of sowing. Are you acquainted with the agricultural imagery of sowing?

There is nothing romantic about sowing. It’s all blisters and callouses and sweat and sore muscles. Sowing is just hard work. And here, the psalmist isn’t even talking about sowing actual seed. He’s talking about spiritual sowing: faithfully walking in faith, or patience, or love, or kindness. The reference to tears draws our attention not only to the difficult work of sowing but also the heartache and heartbreak that often accompany sowing, particularly when the results aren’t immediate.

“Those who sow in tears…He who goes out weeping…” Psalm 126:5-6.

John Piper helps us to understand and apply this verse when he writes:

“This psalm teaches the tough truth that there is work to be done whether I am emotionally up for it or not, and it is good for me to do it. Suppose you are in a season of heartache and discouragement, and it is time to sow seed. Do you say, ‘I can’t sow the field this spring, because I am brokenhearted and discouraged?’ If you do that, you will not eat in the winter. Suppose you say instead, ‘I am heartsick and discouraged. I cry if the milk spills at breakfast. I cry if the phone and the doorbell ring at the same time. I cry for no reason at all, but the field needs to sowed. That is the way life is. I do not feel like it, but I will take my bag of seeds and go out in the fields and do my crying while I do my duty. I will sow in tears.”

So what field of life do you presently need to sow, even if you are in a season of heartache and discouragement? Perhaps parenting or evangelism or simply reading the Bible and praying. Where do you need to sow through prayer, service, or obedience to Scripture? Where do you need to sow, even in tears if necessary?

But the psalmist also provides us with hope for our tear-filled sowing! He is certain of the graciousness of God, the promise of God, the purpose of God. He is certain that those “sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” And he wrote this psalm so we would join him in this certainty.

“Countless generations have looked up from their hard work and seemingly fruitless labor strengthened by this promise,” writes James Montgomery Boice.

Where are you toiling right now? Let us look up from our labor and be strengthened by this promise. And then let us get back to work, the hard work of sowing, with tears in our eyes and hope in our hearts.

Keep sowing! Don’t be surprised or dismayed that the work is hard and arduous and at times heart-breaking. Sowing precedes reaping. Tears often precede joy. But reaping and joy follow as surely as the grain sprouts from the seed. In God’s time, those who sow in tears nevertheless sow faithfully, with a certain hope that in the future, they will reap with shouts of joy.